DISCLAIMER: Buffy and characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy etc. I may have borrowed one or two lines from Angel but I needed them.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Jonel Nightingale for fixing my terrible English.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Death by Darkness
As Buffy studied her surroundings she could hear voices all around her, she strained her eyes as she looked up at the sky; it was burning a violent red with what looked like a black sun. The ground under her feet was cold despite the obvious charring. Nothing but a barren black landscape as far as her eyes could see. Buffy could hear the voices growing louder but she still couldn't see their source. Her head snapped to the side as she heard a ringing in the distance. Okay either they have phones here or I'm having one hell of a weird dream, Buffy let out a snort at her accidental pun. Then suddenly a voice came through, loud and clear. "Buffy, Buffy, wake up!" Buffy sat upright with a jolt.
"Jeez Dawn, it's the middle of the night, what's up?"
"Giles is on the phone, he says it's important." Dawn told her sister.
"Okay, it's not like I'm not used to a lack of sleep." Buffy replied sarcastically while making her way over to the telephone. "Giles, what's up?"
"Ah, Buffy. I'm terribly sorry to wake you, I realise it must be the middle of the night in Rome but I felt this couldn't wait until morning!"
"Don't worry about it." She replies stifling a yawn.
"I won't beat about the bush Buffy, Slayers are disappearing.....in a manner of speaking, we don't know why, we don't know how and we have no idea what's causing it!"
"What do you mean in a manner of speaking, either they are or they aren't?" Buffy replied.
"That's exactly what I mean Buffy, they are and yet they aren't. So far fifteen slayers are in, well, what appears to be a coma. The thing is, their essence, their souls if you like, they've been stripped, all that remains of them are the bodies, their shell!"
"That's your response, ah-ha, I have to say Buffy, not exactly what I was expecting!" Giles told the slayer curtly.
"Sorry but what does this have to do with me, apart from me being a slayer I mean?"
"Slayers are disappearing Buffy, I was hoping for your help!" Giles responded getting more annoyed by the second.
"Giles, you have hundreds of slayers and watchers at your disposal, you don't need me. After Sunnydale I told you I was finished, no more doom and gloom for Buffy!"
"Well, I'm terribly sorry to have troubled you." Buffy's former watcher told her before he hung up the phone.
"Giles, Giles." Buffy replaced the receiver once she realised she was talking to a dead line. "Uhgg, now I've made Giles grumpy."
"What's that now?" Dawn asked, suddenly very interested in the phone call.
"Oh, it's nothing, Giles wanted me to help him with something, I said no, he hung up, ergo grumpy Giles." Buffy replied sadly.
"Help him with what?"
"Some of the slayers are comatose; I got the impression he thinks there's badness afoot!"
"So, he calls you for help because slayers are falling into comas and you say no! Don't you want to find out what's going on?"
"No Dawn, what I want is for us to finally lead a dull, boring and average life, you know, like normal people do!"
"Dawn, subject closed, I'm going back to sleep. You should do the same; you have uni tomorrow as well!"
As Dawn stomped back to her room she was tempted to call Giles to find out what was going on, but Buffy was right, it was time to lead a normal life and that meant leaving her old life behind no matter how much she missed it.
In a darkened room a stone statue stood. It could have looked like a human if not for the three pairs of arms and the four faces, one of man, one of beast, one of bird and one of demon. In front of it a hooded figure knelt, "I offer myself in supplication to thee, accept my sacrifices, soon you shall feed from their essence and you will be made flesh my dark lord."
As Giles sat alone in the conference room at the New Watchers council building he couldn't help but ponder over Buffy's reaction. He understood her need for normalcy but couldn't understand her utter lack of concern. He was quickly jolted from his thoughts by the entrance of someone. He looked up to see Andrew followed by Faith entering the large room.
"Any news?" He asked expectantly.
"It's happened again, in LA. Same as before, no warning then poof, coma!" Faith told her boss.
"Did you talk to Buffy Giles, is she on board?" Andrew asked nervously.
"No, I'm afraid not. Buffy seems to think we can handle this on our own!"
"Okay, maybe it's just me but shouldn't she be here? I mean who's to say this won't happen to her, or me for that matter!" Faith stated throwing her hands in the air.
"The chosen one has lost the mission!" Andrew said to nobody in particular.
Simultaneously Faith and Giles gave Andrew one of their are you from this planet looks.
Andrew may have changed somewhat but his need for dramatisation had remained intact despite his watcher training.
"Did you make arrangements for the girl to be brought here?" Giles asked Faith.
"Willow and Kennedy are on it; they're coming over with her in the private jet as soon as they are ready."
"Andrew?" Giles asked, looking around to find Andrew waving a mystical sword around his head. "When you're quite finished, I think it's time. Call the watchers, they need to be told!"
"Okie Dokie el' Capitan!" Andrew threw over his shoulder as he exited the conference room.
"Please stop calling me that!" Giles shouted after him. "Faith, didn't you talk to him about this?"
"I did but the dude just doesn't listen." She told Giles while trying to suppress a giggle.
"So Faith, before you left you mentioned a dream you had that may be of significance?"
"Oh right, I don't really know if it is, could just be the randomness of my head."
Giles looked at her, prompting her to go on despite her misgivings.
"Okay, so I'm somewhere, I know it's not this reality cause the sky is red, like it's on fire and the sun, I know this is gonna sound weird, but it was black. So was the ground, nothing but charcoal stuff and it was cold, not hot like you'd expect. I felt like the only one there but I could hear voices, there was so many of them, they were all jumbled together so I couldn't make out what they were saying. Then right before I wake up the voices suddenly become clear. They said help us. That's all I got."
"These voices, male or female?"
"Definitely female and they sounded wicked scared!"
"So we have the essence of slayers being stripped somehow and you have a dream where unseen girls ask for help. It doesn't strike me as random!" Giles decided while taking off his glasses and cleaning them with his handkerchief.
"Well at this point in time it means jack shit, it doesn't tell us anything new!"
"Perhaps." Giles pondered.
"What are you thinking?"
"The landscape you described, if it was indeed an alternate reality we may be able to narrow it down somewhat from your description, find out where or what it is. I'll get the research team on it, see if they can come up with anything."
"Okay but since this last girl was in LA, don't you think it might be a good idea to get Angel in on it..." Faith stopped her sentence when she saw the look on Giles face.
"I don't think we can trust Angel with this Faith, have you forgotten who he works for now?"
"No I haven't forgotten, all the more reason to bring him in on this. This alternate reality, I'm going to take a wild guess and say that it was less than good. Maybe Wolfram and Hart is a good place to start looking, you know since it's evil they might have a better chance of pin pointing its location?"
Giles sighed "If we are unsuccessful, I will consider it. In the mean time Faith, I don't want Angel and his band of evil lawyers anywhere near this, understood?"
"Loud and clear boss. I'm going to split, take a shower and get some shut eye. That's if you don't need me for anything else?"
"No, you've had a busy few days, go get some rest. I'll call on you if I need you." Giles told the trainee watcher with a smile.
Giles thought back to Faith at her worst, he along with many people had thought that she was beyond redemption but after the final battle with the first she had surprised them all with her eagerness to learn. He smiled to himself as he remembered her practically begging him to train her as a watcher. He had agreed and didn't regret a single moment; she was his best student and seemed to enjoy being on the less violent side of the squad.
Willow and Kennedy crossed the tarmac to the private jet that was to fly themselves and the comatose slayer to London. Willow was afraid, she was connected to all these girls and she could feel their helplessness that occurred for a split second before they fell. Yet, once they were gone, she felt nothing, no longer connected to the slayers she could once feel all around her. Shaken from her thoughts Willow stopped abruptly, she knew this feeling, it was about to happen again. She felt the helplessness and wondered if it was maybe her own feelings and not that of the girls, no matter how hard she tried she felt guilty for her inability to save them. As quickly as it came the feeling was gone, Willow turned to tell Kennedy that another girl was gone, only to be greeted by the sight of her girlfriend slumped on the tarmac unconscious.
Faith was awoken from her slumber buy a frantic knocking on the door. Wearily she got out of bed and made her way over to the door. Squinting as she opened it she saw Andrew staring at her fearfully.
"What's up Andy?"
"It's happened again Faith. Willow called, Kennedy's gone!" He replied his voice shaking with emotion.
"Shit, how's Will?"
"Distraught, as you'd expect. Xander is flying over with the other slayer; Willow will join us later once Kennedy is ready to be transferred."
"Does Giles know?"
"Duh Faith, who do you think sent me here? He's not too keen on waking you up since that last time; you know when you punched him!"
"Hey I was having a bad dream, totally accidental!"
"Yeah well, you broke his glasses. Don't you know his glasses are an extension of him?" Andrew said in a matter of fact way.
Faith shook her head in mock exasperation while pulling on some clean clothes. "Go tell him I'm coming will ya?"
"Sure thing watcher junior."
"He just gets weirder and weirder." Faith muttered under her breath.
Faith thought about calling Angel on the quiet but decided not to go against Giles order. I should call Buffy; maybe now it's happened to someone she knows she might decide to give a damn! Faith thought angrily.
As Buffy sat outside the university enjoying her lunch she thought more about her dream. Maybe I should call Giles, let him know about it. It may mean something that I don't........Pulled from her thoughts by the cell phone ringing incessantly in her bag, she rummaged around trying to locate the device. As she pulled it out she was surprised to see Faith's number flashing on the screen.
"Not a social call Buffy!" Faith answered abruptly
"Oh I get it, look Faith, I'm going to tell you the same thing I told Giles....."
"It's Kennedy!" Faith told her cutting her off mid sentence. "She's in a coma!"
"Oh my god, is Willow alright?"
"Doubtful, she's coming over here as soon as she can. Look Buffy, I get it, you want to be the poster child for normal but your friends are in trouble."
"I don't see how me being there is going to make a difference. I'm not needed!"
"You are needed, by Giles, by Will.......and by me!"
Faith's reply threw Buffy. Things had been resolved between her and Faith but she never thought she'd live to see the day when Faith said she needed her. She had often hoped to hear it but not under these circumstances. Even when Robin died, she thought Faith might at last turn to her, but Robin's death only seemed to draw Faith further away from Buffy. No matter how hard she tried to deny it to herself she missed her sister slayer terribly and regretted the years spent fighting each other, If only I had realised sooner, things could have been so different.
"Buffy, are you still there?" Faith asked into the silence.
"Yeah, sorry I zoned out. I'll come, but I'll have to talk to Dawn first. Make sure she's okay with me coming." Buffy replied.
"Why wouldn't she be?"
"Well, she's at uni now, doing really well. I don't want to pull her away from her new life now that things are going so good for her. She's even got herself a boyfriend."
"Shut up, little Dawny?" Faith laughed down the phone.
"Not so little anymore." Buffy answered, the pride evident in her voice. "I'll call you once I've spoken to her okay?
It had taken a lot for Faith to tell Buffy she needed her. Mostly because of her feelings for her. After Robin's death she wanted to run to Buffy, to pour out her grief to her. Only being held back by the constant fear of rejection, the same fear that had held her back since the first time she met Buffy.
Willow sat by Kennedy's side in the hospital room. Looking at her lover she wished she could fix this, but she had no idea how. Despite all her power and magical knowledge she had no idea who was behind this, how they were doing it or why.
Kennedy looked around her. Gazing at the black sun and fiery sky she knew she was no longer in her body. Where am I? Am I dead? Is this hell? Oh my god, I'm in hell. I helped save the world and they send me to hell. That's just wrong! Kennedy was stirred from her thoughts by the feeling of presence around her. She couldn't see anyone but she could feel them. Sister slayers, at least sixteen of them.
"Another one." The voice echoed.
Kennedy could hear the voice of the girl, not with her ears but in her head.
"What is this place?" Kennedy thought, hoping the group could hear her.
"Hell!" The slayers replied in unison.
Xander checked his watch. Only a few more hours and he would arrive in London. He looked forward to seeing his friends again but couldn't shake the feeling of dread that had enveloped him ever since the mystical comas began. He thought after Sunnydale things would be quiet; he'd get to live a normal life with no more monsters and demons. After loosing an eye to the evil preacher back in Sunnydale he'd lost all taste for the battle. One last time and then I'm definitely done, I'll walk away and never come back. This just isn't me anymore.
Faith walked into the research offices at the watchers council, not totally surprised to find Giles there mucking in with the rest of the team. Being head of the watchers council hadn't changed him that much. Faith hoped that he wouldn't be angry with her for calling Buffy, or if he was, maybe the fact that she was finally willing to help might take the sting out of it.
"Hey boss, how goes it?"
"Ah Faith, I apologise for having to disturb you but I assumed you'd want to know abut Kennedy."
"Glad you woke me. So erm Giles?" Faith asked nervously. "I know you're a bit pissed at Buffy and her lack of interest but I sorta called her."
"She's coming over, she's just gotta tell Dawn about it first."
"You are quite meddlesome Faith, but I'm sure you're already aware of that!" He told his student with a smile.
"You know me, always gotta be sticking it somewhere.....thinking about rephrasing that!" Faith replied screwing her face up.
"Xander should be arriving with the other girl soon. I'm sending our medical team to the airport to pick them up, could you go along with them please?" Giles asked.
"We expecting trouble?"
"No but we better err on the side of caution since we don't have the foggiest idea what's going on." Giles replied unhappily.
"Still no ideas about the location?"
"Not as yet, We've narrowed it down somewhat, to about two hundred possibilities."
"Huh, you have a strange definition of narrow Giles!"
"About an hour ago there were thousands of possibilities, so we are getting somewhere, slowly but surely."
"Well, better speed up a bit boss, I've already had one coma, not looking for another!" Faith shouted over her shoulder as she left to find the medical team.
Buffy sat in her living room with her packed case next to her on the sofa. Dawn should be home any minute, not looking forward to this. Buffy hated having to leave Dawn, she promised her sister a normal life and here she was, running off to London to stop god knows what. Buffy looked up as she heard the familiar sound of a bag being dumped in the hallway.
"Hey Bu.......what's with the case?" Dawn asked accusingly.
"I have to go to London, this thing that's happening, it's happened to Kennedy."
"Ok so have you packed my stuff with yours cause I'd rather have my own case!"
"Dawn you're not coming!"
"The hell I'm not, Kennedy's my friend too. I want to help."
"No, you need to stay here and go to school. I won't be gone that long, I promise!"
"Yeah right, so much for dull and boring huh!" Dawn shouted before storming out of the house.
Great, very well handled Buffy. Buffy looked at her watch; her cab was due in 10 minutes. If Dawn wasn't back she would have to leave without saying goodbye. Damn teenage tantrums, shouldn't she be growing out of these by now? Buffy thought while writing a note for Dawn.
I know you're angry at me for leaving and not taking you with me. Please try and understand, just because I seem incapable of a normal life doesn't mean you should suffer the same fate. I'll call you as soon as I land, please behave, no wild parties!
Speak to you soon.
P.S. Money left in the bread bin, should keep you going while I'm gone.
The four-faced statue stood tall in a darkened room. There were more hooded figures surrounding it. Four of them, each with a different talisman in their hands. Each talisman representing a face of the statue. The hooded figures circled the statue, chanting, they stopped and knelt down before it. One man speaks, "Dark lord, the time is almost near, these talismans we bring to you in preparation for your transformation." Each man takes it in turn to lay his talisman on the ground around the statue. The talismans glow dark red, they start to disappear leaving behind a blood red mist. The mouth on each face begins to open, the four men watch as the mist disappears into the mouths on each of the statues faces. One of the hooded figures stands; he removes his hood to reveal his identity, Ethan Rayne. "Not long now chaps!"
Giles looked up from the book he was reading to see Jennifer rushing towards him with a look of both concern and triumph on her face.
"I think we may have found it. I believe what Faith saw in her dream is the demon wasteland."
"That's wonderful Jennifer, may I see the book?"
Jennifer smiled as she handed the book to Giles. "What I don't understand is how the Slayers essence could be trapped there. It's a place of evil, only the essence of a demon is supposed to end up there and only when the demon is dead!"
Giles chewed on the end of his glasses as he read the book in front of him, letting out a few oh's and ohm's every now and again. "It doesn't seem to say what happens to the essence once it gets there, have you found no reference to this?"
"None at all Mr Giles, one would assume that it just dissipates over time."
Giles looked around the room at his team and sighed. He didn't like it but he knew that he would have to call Wolfram and Hart and ask Angel for his assistance.
"Well keep at it; see if there is anything we've missed. I have to make a phone call. Call me if you find anything else Jennifer."
Angel stormed into his office to find Wesley standing there distraught. Angel let his rage get the better of him and pinned Wesley to the wall.
"What the hell did you do?" Angel shouted in Wesley's face.
"What I had to!"
"I don't remember seeing stab Gunn on the agenda this morning!" Angel fumed.
"I avoided the major organs. He'll probably live!"
"Is that supposed to make it alright Wes?"
"Nothing is alright; nothing will ever be alright!" Wesley cried.
"We'll get her back Wes!"
"No we won't, Fred's soul......her soul was destroyed resurrecting Illyria."
"Are you sure?"
Wesley's bowed head was enough to tell Angel that he was sure. First Cordy and now Fred, I can't loose any more of my people! Angel's train of thought was broken by the sound of Harmony's voice over the office intercom.
"Angel, you have a call on line one."
"Take a message Harmony!"
"It's Rupert Giles, he says it important"
Angel walked angrily over to his desk and picked up the telephone. Giles was the last person he wanted to speak to. If he's calling to change his mind about helping I swear to god I'm going to rethink the whole rule about not killing humans!
"What do you want Giles?"
"I need your help Angel."
"Oh you need my help; well I'm sorry I'm a bit too busy to help right now. Running an evil law firm is taking up alot of my time!"
"Angel please, hear me out."
Angel listened as Giles explained what was going on with the slayers. Leaving out nothing, he was desperate for Angel's help and Angel knew it.
"Tell me again why I should help you?"
"If you help us with our problem I shall do my best to help with yours."
"It's too late for that Giles, she's gone, Fred's gone!"
"It's never too late Angel, you of all people should know that."
"Fine, I'll get the research team on it see if they........"
"No!" Giles cut in. "Just Wesley; I don't want anyone knowing about this besides the people that have to!"
"I'll call you if he finds anything!" Angel told Giles before hanging up the phone.
Wesley looked up from the chair he was sat in. His life empty, Fred was gone, the woman he loved was dead and in her place an abomination of Fred's beautiful form. How can she be gone, so soon after....... He let his thoughts trail off. Angel was speaking to him but the words just weren't registering.
"Wesley, did you hear me?"
"Giles has agreed to help us get Fred back, but first we have to help him!"
"What about Illyria?"
"Let me worry about her for a while!"
Faith knocked and entered Giles office closely followed by an exhausted Xander. No matter how much time Faith spent in Giles office, it still gave her the creeps. It was all dusty old books and magical objects. In the wrong hands someone could really do some damage with all this stuff. She thought.
"Hey boss, look what I found." Faith exclaimed pointing towards Xander.
"G-man, gimmie a hug........and by hug I mean in a manly way of course!"
"Of course, manly!" Giles replied while the two men embraced, in a manly fashion of course.
"You look tired Xander."
"The flight was a bummer, I didn't want to sleep incase something happened to Casey."
"Casey?" Giles asked puzzled.
"The slayer he brought over." Faith offered.
"It seems in all this confusion I never thought to ask her name. You should get some rest Xander, did Faith show you where you'll be staying?"
"Sure did. I'll sleep just for a few hours. Come get me if anything else goes wrong!"
As Xander left Faith turned to Giles, desperate for some news, any news. She knew she was being a tad selfish but she wanted to get this figured out before it happened to her, or Buffy. God don't let this happen to Buffy. I can't loose her now.
"So fill me in boss."
"I beg your pardon!" Giles said with a look of confusion on his face.
"New info, do you have any?"
"Oh right. Yes. It appears the reality you saw in your vision is called the demon wasteland. A dumping ground of sorts for a demons essence once he or she has been terminated in this reality."
"....and what do we do about the slayers trapped there?"
"I have no idea Faith. We seem to have hit a dead end!"
"Look Giles I know you don't want to hear this but maybe we should call Angel, they have to be able to find something out!" Faith pleaded.
"I already have, he says he will call if and when he has any information for us. How is Casey by the way?"
"Still the same but she's settled in the infirmary with the rest of the girls, the med staff are keeping a close eye on them. Any word on Willow and Kennedy?"
"She called while you were out, they should be on the jet by now, they'll be here soon."
".....and Buffy?" Faith asked trying to mask the eagerness in her voice.
Before Giles had a chance to respond the two of them turned to face the door that had just opened.
"Buffy." Giles replied curtly.
"Look Giles, I'm sorry about the way I acted. I was, well I was a bitch!"
"Well, hanging up on you wasn't one of my finer moments." Giles smiled at his former slayer who returned the smile warmly.
"So Buffy, what's say we get you settled then Giles can get you up to speed?"
"Ok Faith, right behind you"
Ethan Rayne sat at a table with his three fellow sorcerers. The tension in the air was electrifying. He knew it wouldn't be long before his master fed on the essence that he had dutifully captured for him. Then things were going to change, hell was coming to town and the anticipation was killing him. I'll make her pay for what she did to me, having me locked away in that prison like an animal. Her and her friends, they will all pay along with the rest of the world.
"Right boys, it's almost time.....for the human sacrifice. Any volunteers?" Ethan asked with a wicked smile. "No? Oh that's a shame, that means I'll have to choose for you!"
Ethan scanned the terrified faces in front of him, relishing the fear he instilled in these men. They were truly terrified of him, to terrified to even run. The three of them just stood there awaiting their fate, each knowing that it could be them, each praying that it wasn't.
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