DISCLAMAIR: All things Buffy belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and lots of people in expensive suits. Iím not making any money here, just trying to create a happier Buffyverse for my favorite characters.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Adheres to Buffy canon up to "Who Are You?" Spoilers for S4 after (and including) "This Yearís Girl" and the Angelís episode "Sanctuary."† Many thanks to Val for the beta and encouragement.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

LearningCurve
By Rebelrsr

 

Chapter Twenty-Five

Faith mumbled under her breath as she reentered the Summers' kitchen. The two blondes at the counter looked at her and smiled.

"Something wrong, Faith?" Joyce inquired.

Flushing slightly, the Slayer answered. "No, Mrs. S, I'm good." She grabbed a chair from around the table and straddled it, chin resting on the back.

"If you're so OK, why were you talking to yourself when you came in?" Tara smirked a bit, suspecting what Faith had seen. The borrowed energy of the earlier spell gave her a line into the emotions of the other three girls. She'd been inundated with waves of desire since leaving the living room.

Her Slayer gave her an irritated look. "Man, you know, T, the whole time I was working with B and the Super Friends, I never suspected little Miss Holier Than Thou could relax enough to have fun." Suddenly remembering exactly who was in the room, her eyes widened. "Ummm, sorry, Mrs. Summers."

The older woman smiled. "That's OK, Faith. I've often wondered about Buffy myself."

"Thanks ever so much, Mom," the girl under discussion griped. She and Willow walked into the room, hand in hand. "It's nice to know that my sex life takes up so much of you guys' time. Maybe Will and I should set up a video camera and you could just watch and learn."

Faith couldn't resist. "That'd be wicked cool, B."

The room erupted in laughter when Buffy spun to face her sister Slayer with a look of pure horror.

"Enough, girls. It's been a long day. Eat up and then get some rest." Joyce stood and began carrying bowls of food to the table.


Faith dried out the last bowl and stuck it in the cabinet. "All done, T. You ready for bed?" She leaned against the counter and watched her witch wiping down the sink. The blonde tossed the dish rag down and turned to smile at the waiting brunette.

"Ready if you are," she smirked. The older girl held out her hand, inviting her companion to move from her position across the room.

"You even have to ask, Blondie?" The Slayer stalked across the room and picked the witch up, cradling her against her chest. "Let's take this somewhere a bit more private." She started up the stairs, groaning when her cargo nipped and licked a fiery path across her throat. "Damn, T, you should register that mouth. It's freakin' lethal!"

Giggles emanated from the witch. "You're just easy, Slayer." Tara rested her head against Faith's chest, listening to the strong heartbeat as they climbed steadily to the second floor.

"Hey, that wasn't a complaint. Why'd you stop?" Faith inquired.

Snuggling deeper into the brunette, Tara mumbled, "I like listening to your heart." She blushed, hoping the overly romantic sentiment didn't scare Faith off. She was surprised when tender lips brushed the top of her head.

"Nobody's paid much attention to my heart before, Tara," the husky whisper commented. "It isn't worth much. You should look for something that still has value."

They entered the room while the witch tried to find a response to the self deprecating statement. As Faith gently set her on the ground, Tara buried her hands in the curly brown hair and held the Slayer's head in place. "I'm really tired of those kinds of remarks," she growled. "I spent a lot of years letting my family knock me around and tell me I was worthless. I understand where you're coming from, but have I ever done anything to make you feel less than magnificent?"

Rigid with shock, Faith stared into intense blue eyes. "Tara?" she questioned. "I didn't mean to upset you. It's just, you know, I ain't got much to offer."

"You've got everything I need, my Slayer." Knowing the battle with Adam was over and Faith's reason for returning to Sunnydale gone, the blonde witch threw caution to the winds. She pulled Faith's head down, pressing a gentle kiss to the pouting lips. "Show me what you've got, Slayer."

With a wicked grin, Faith accepted the challenge. The last time they'd played together, Tara had done most of the work, driving Faith mad with desire. The Slayer planned to reverse that action this time around. Clamping down on her own needs, she slowly removed the long tie-dyed skirt and T-shirt the witch wore. The older girl stood before her in bra and panties.

Not bothering to remove the white material, the brunette ran warm fingers under the shoulder straps, sliding them down to the witch's elbows. The fabric cupping the blonde's breasts sagged, leaving the nipples exposed. Grinning in anticipation, Faith placed slow, wet kisses on the flesh. Eventually, though, need won out and she increased the intensity of her kisses. Faith maneuvered Tara onto the bed and arranged the panting witch to her liking.

Slowly examining the flushed skin and hazy blue eyes, the Slayer removed her own shirt and bra before kneeling between Tara's legs. She quickly and efficiently removed the cotton underwear. One strong pull placed the blonde's core at the edge of the mattress, her long limbs straddling the brunette's body. Faith wanted to tease and torment before taking Tara over the edge. She avoided the glistening mound, focusing on the witch's silky inner thighs. Licking and nipping at the salty flesh, she smiled to herself when the blonde arched violently into her mouth, hands tangled painfully in her hair. When Tara's moans turned to broken verbal pleas, the Slayer gave in. With gentle fingers, Faith separated the soaked outer lips before her and caressed them with a puff of warm air. Leaning in, she flattened her tongue and blazed a fiery trail along the witch's opening, finishing at the swollen clit. She paused there, tongue pressed hard into the twitching bundle of nerves.

"Please, Faith. Oh, Goddess." Tara's words reached the Slayer seconds before the brunette slid a slim finger inside her. It was enough to send the blonde over the edge. Her release was so intense, the witch felt herself sliding into warm darkness. With a last surge of energy, she whispered the words of a spell.


Willow rested her cheek on Buffy's shoulder, waiting for her heart to stop racing. "For a straight girl, you sure do a good job, Baby."

A smirk clear in her voice, the Slayer responded, "Who you calling straight, Rosenberg? I seem to remember you screaming my name just a few minutes ago. A straight girl wouldn't be able to get that reaction."

"True." The redhead snuggled closer. "Buffy?"

Sensing a drastic change in mood, the blonde stiffened. "Yeah, Will?"

"What's next?"

"Well, I kinda thought we'd get some sleep." The smaller girl hoped to avoid any deep conversations.

Unfortunately her witch had other plans. A small hand tugged warningly on a nipple. "Buffy…"

"OK, Will, I get it." The Slayer grimaced. Why did her new girlfriend always want to talk? "Next…well, Adam's dead, but the Initiative is still around. We'll need to – uh, help them leave town." She stroked a lazy hand through Willow's tousled hair. "After that, I guess we wait for the next apocalypse."

"What about Faith?"

"Well, she can't stay here. The police are looking for her." Buffy frowned. It had been nice to have the other Slayer on the team. "We could try talking her into staying, but why would she? I mean, there's a lot of history here."

"I did some checking. The police don't really have much evidence against her." Willow pressed into the hand in her hair, nearly purring. "I'd feel so much the better if you had help with Slaying." She began to tease a finger in and out of the blonde's navel. "Do you think, if we can convince her to stay, that Giles and your mom would help with the legal situation?"

"Wow, I don't know." Fighting to stay focused on the conversation, the Slayer commented hoarsely, "I think the convincing should be aimed at Tara. She seems to hold a bit of sway over my little sister."

"Hmmm, good point." The witch rewarded her lover's magnificent idea with a slow, deep kiss. Pulling away, the redhead grinned at the look in her Slayer's eyes. She was so easy. "OK. We convince Faith to stay and the gang pitches in to get the cops out of the way. We can handle that. What about us?"

"Huh?" Was there some problem she didn't know about? Buffy tried to gather her scattered thoughts.

"I want to know how you want to handle 'us'." Willow pushed for a response.

Nearly whining at the amount of talking going on, the blonde mumbled, "Be glad to handle any part of you, Will."

"Buffy!" The Slayer's head snapped up. "Focus for just a few more minutes, please. Are we going to formally 'come out' or are we going to pretend we're just friends?"

"Will, I honestly don't care who knows what. I mean, I love you. If people have a problem with that, well, I'm the Slayer. I see lots of bruised humans in my future."

Chuckling at the grumpy statement, Willow decided she'd tortured the blonde girl enough for one night. "Sounds perfect, Baby. It makes me hot and wet when you get all Protective Buffy." The witch had enough energy left for one more round of lovemaking. Blinking big green eyes at the Slayer, she rolled on top of the smaller girl. "Let me show you just how hot and wet."

 

Chapter Twenty-Six

Faith turned around and looked at her witch, reclining on the bed. "I think it's strange," the blonde said. "I mean, I think I should worry."

"Worry about what, T?" the Slayer wandered to the bed and sat down.

Avoiding the question, Tara looked at the brunette. "You're not worried?"

Regarding her lover seriously, Faith replied, "I never worry here." A slow smile tilted normally pouting lips. "I'm safe here."

"Maybe." The blonde sounded sad. "But, am I safe with you?"

"What?" Shocked brown eyes stared at the faintly amused blonde. She stood and paced restlessly to the window.

"It's OK, Sweetie. They will find out, you know. About you."

About me? What about…Feeling sick, Faith watched as the blonde rolled over, wrapping the sheets around her body. In denial, the Dark Slayer mumbled, "I don't have time to think about that. I have a lot of work to do."

"Do you think you can get done before class?" The sheet pulled taut around the witch's form as she moved onto her back.

"Class? T, come on. I don't do class." Faith smirked. "You got something you wanna tell me, Blondie?" She waited for an answer, lazily checking out the body posed on the bed.

"That's why I was so surprised you'd enrolled in a drama course, Slayer." A flush rose on the blonde's face. "You don't want to be late. You might miss something important."

"But, I don't want to leave here." Faith was anxious at the thought. It really was safe here. Tara would make sure nothing harmed her.

"Why not?" The blonde sounded only mildly interested, but the question upset the Slayer immensely.

She turned away, walking to stand in front of the curtain-clad window. Lifting the heavy red velvet, Faith squinted into the sunny day outside. "It's so bright," she informed the witch. "And there's something out there," she said in surprise. A black shadowy figure moved through the desolate landscape outside the window.

Tara looked concerned. "Maybe you should check it out on the way to class."

"Sure, T, sure." The Slayer reluctantly grabbed a stake and a long knife. With a last, lingering look at the sexy blonde, she left the room. Once outside, the brunette found herself in the main hallway of Sunnydale High School. Lockers lined the walls, and she was happy to see Xander and Oz. "Hey, guys. What are you doing here?"

Willow's ex-boyfriend gave his small smile and walked with the Slayer as she headed for her locker. "I heard you're taking drama. Tough course."

Frowning in irritation, Faith looked at the slightly built young man. "Dude, I don't take classes. Been outta school for a long time."

"Maybe, but Buffy saw your name on the class roster. She was thrilled. She and Willow are taking the same class, too." Xander stood close behind the werewolf.

"Great. Welcome to the Hellmouth." Faith twirled the lock on locker number 137. "Think you could ask Giles to look into this? Cause I didn't sign up for a drama class, especially one with B and Red in it." Clicking the dial to the combination, the Slayer tried to open the narrow locker door. It didn't budge. "Fuck. I know that was the combination." She cleared the tumblers and started again.

A bell rang stridently. "Hey, better hurry, Faith. You'll be late," Oz commented.

"What is it with everyone?" the brunette snarled. "I ain't going to class. So there's no lateness to worry about."

Xander smiled goofily. "You have to go, Faith. They're all waiting for you. You've got the lead role; the show can't go on without you."

"Whatever." The Slayer stalked off, leaving the boys in the hallway. She headed toward the library, hoping Giles was there. However, when she shoved open the double doors, the teen found herself amidst a variety of costumes, with people scurrying around.

Warm hands grabbed her around the shoulders. Jumping in shock, she turned her head and saw Cordelia dressed in a traditional German outfit. "Isn't this exciting?" the cheerleader gushed. "Our first production. I can't wait for our scene." The taller girl grabbed Faith in a bear hug.

"Whoa, Queen C, what's up with you?" The Slayer stiffened in the embrace. She backed away, staring at the other brunette.

With her trademark hair toss and superior look, the prom queen snapped, "Nothing's up. Just be sure not to step on my lines."

"Whatever," Faith mumbled, confused and a little angry. She walked away, looking for the exit.

"Faith!" Buffy squealed from across the space. She ran over, decked out in a beaded, roaring twenties outfit.

With a smirk, Faith took a long look at her sister Slayer. "Looking good, B. Did Red help you pick that out? If so, gotta say her taste in clothes has improved."

"This place is packed!" The blonde, wearing a short black wig, exclaimed. She completely ignored the mocking comment. "Your whole family is here in the front row."

Faith froze. Her family? Fuck, no. "You sure, B?" she asked, panicking.

The shorter girl smiled. "Of course I'm sure. They're front row, center, and they look really angry."

Yeah, I bet they are. The Dark Slayer felt her stomach clench. It had been years since she'd seen her family, but it was still too soon for a reunion. Trying to keep her voice from shaking, Faith asked, "Hey, B, isn't this supposed to be a drama class? I mean, they don't normally do plays on the first day, right?"

Buffy looked at Cordelia. "Is that in the script? I don't remember that line." The shorter Slayer glared at Faith. "Just stop it! Stick with the script." The flapper stepped back and looked around the bustling set. "Where's your costume?"

"B, for the last time, I am not in any play and I am not taking a drama class. What the fuck is wrong with you?" The brunette was getting scared. Was everyone under a spell?

The older Slayer's eyes got big. "Don't worry so much, really! Your costume is perfect. No one will know the truth about you."

Suddenly, Faith felt the old urge to run flare up. She needed to get out of here. As she turned toward the backstage exit, a new voice rose above the din.

"Alright, everyone. Pay attention." Reluctantly pausing, the brunette turned to watch the speaker.

Dressed casually in a faded pair of 501s and a Grateful Dead T-shirt, he waved his hand, beckoning Faith to the center of the crowd. "Faith, are you ready?" The stage lights glinted off the gold hoop in his left ear as he gestured at the curtain behind him. "In just a few minutes, that curtain is going to go up on our first production. The theatre is packed." He slung an arm around a stunned Faith. "And they're all here to see you."

The Dark Slayer was about to respond when movement caught her eye. A shadow flitted through the crowd, disappearing between racks of clothing. "Hey, did you see that?" she asked the older man.

"Now, stay focused," he advised. "Stay in character, remember your lines, and energy, energy, energy, especially in the musical numbers." The man clapped his hands, and the costumed throng melted away, heading for various places backstage. It was time to get some answers.

"Got a few questions for you," Faith said.

"Of course, Faith," he responded. Shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans, he waited for his leading lady to begin.

"Who are you?" the Slayer asked. It was a lame question, but the brunette needed to know. So far, he was the only unfamiliar face.

The bearded man smiled genially. "I'm Professor Z. I'm the drama instructor."

"'K, see, that's a problem." Faith stepped closer, lowering her voice threateningly. "I ain't a student and I sure as hell am not in a play."

"The plays already started," he replied. "Have you rehearsed your lines? Your first scene is up soon."

Growling in frustration, the Slayer stormed off. To hell with this, she just needed to find Giles. He'd be able to help reverse the spell the rest of the Scoobies were under. Wending her way through the strangely dressed cast, Faith looked for a way out. Seeing an opening in the curtain, she stepped through, nearly stumbling over the person on the other side. Ready to apologize for barging in, the brunette paled, getting a good look at the individual. "Boss?" she gasped. Richard Wilkins III, late Mayor of Sunnydale smiled genially.

"Hello, Faith. I've been waiting for you." He waved a slim hand at the table in front of him. "I saved some room for these. I just knew you would want them."

Displayed on rich velvet, the Slayer noted the array of torture implements she had planned on using with Buffy in the Mansion. Sickened, she knew she had to leave now. Giles, Scoobies, spells, they didn't matter. She had to get out. Running past the still-smiling man, Faith dashed down a long, dark corridor between two curtains. Finally, not seeing an end to the passageway, she slowed and then came to a halt. Looking around in confusion, the brunette tried to find a way out. "Fuck!" she yelled. Tara appeared out of nowhere to her left.

"It's not going very well," the witch commented.

"No? Really?" Faith mocked. "What's going on, T?"

"You don't understand yet, do you?" Tara looked concerned.

It took every ounce of self control at her disposal, but Faith managed to withhold her scream of frustration. Speaking slowly, between clenched teeth, she said, "I don't understand jack, Blondie. All the funky conversations, the play…And, is something following me?"

"Yes."

"Damn." Faith tensed at Tara's answer. "I need to get to Giles. Maybe he can help me figure out what to do."

"Everyone's starting to wonder about you," the blonde said, staring at the Slayer in concern.

Throwing her hands in the air, Faith snapped, "Tell 'em to join the club, T."

"You have to take this seriously!" The witch looked frightened. "If they find out about the real you, they'll punish you. I can't help you with that."

The sick feeling returned, and Faith wiped sweating palms on her jeans. "Can you at least tell me what's following me? I mean, I just saw the Mayor. It got something to do with last year?"

"Shhh!" Tara warned. She glanced around.

Faith, too, examined their location. Faintly, the Slayer heard a conversation. "Hey, did you hear that?" she asked, trying to locate the source of the voices. It sounded a little like B, but the brunette couldn't be sure. Then, as quickly as they'd come, the voices disappeared. "Fuck!" Faith turned back to her girl, but she was gone. "Tara?" What the hell was going on? Frantically searching for the missing witch, the Slayer forgot to keep her senses on alert.

A taloned hand shot through the curtain, slicing a narrow gash on her shoulder. Hissing in pain, Faith dropped to the ground, rolling away from the attack. More hands and the occasional knife ripped through the velvet. With nowhere to go, the Slayer huddled on the ground, trying to avoid getting stabbed or clawed.

A hand grabbed her arm. Faith couldn't help it, she screamed. "Faith! Come on!" Professor Z peered at her through a gap in the curtain. He pulled the prone brunette to her feet, but kept a firm hand on her back. "Stay low," he commanded. They crept through Restfield Cemetery. "What do they look like?"

"I don't know. I've never seen them," the Slayer answered.

"Of course you know, Faith. You've been here before." Her escort sounded impatient. "This isn't about a play; that's just the metaphor your mind created."

 

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Tara snuggled into the warm body next to her. Reaching out with a tendril of power, she noted her wards hadn't been disturbed. Good. She opened her eyes, smiling at her Slayer. The beautiful brunette was still sleeping, but the witch noted lines of strain around mouth and eyes, and a deep wrinkle in her forehead. With a gentle hand, Tara smoothed the furrowed brow.

When she touched Faith, her relaxation disappeared. Something was wrong. The Slayer's aura was a steady blue, but the touch leaked emotions. The younger girl was scared, frustrated, angry. Responding instantly to the cocktail of feelings, the blonde shook her bedmate. "Faith? Sweetie, come on. Wake up." There was no response to her call. Worried, Tara muttered a quick spell. Her eyes widened at the results and she hurtled off the bed, quickly stepping into her discarded jeans and T-shirt from the previous day. Banishing the wards with a quick wave, she bolted across the hall and pounded on Buffy's door.

She wiggled impatiently until the door opened and a bleary-eyed Slayer glared at her. "What's the deal, Tara?"

"It's Faith." The witch got right to the point. "She's under some kind of enspelled sleep. I can't get her to wake up."

Buffy responded to the urgency in Tara's voice. "OK. Hang on." She closed the door with a snap.

By the time the Slayer and Willow stumbled into the hall, the blonde witch was frantic. She'd kept a link with her Slayer and the tension level in the brunette continued to rise. The three girls entered the storage-cum-guest room and stared at the sleeping figure. "I woke up and found her like this."

"Are you sure she's not just sleeping?" Willow asked. The brunette looked normal, if a bit younger and more vulnerable than the redhead had ever seen her.

"Yes. I'm sure." Tara spit the words out. "When I couldn't get her to wake up, I tried a divining spell. Someone or something has her in an enspelled sleep. The signature is familiar, but I couldn't place it."

The redhead frowned. "Can you do the spell again, with me linked? Maybe I'll recognize the signature."

Holding out her hand, Tara began the divining spell. The energy surrounded the sleeping Slayer gently, pressing and prodding at the boundaries of the power keeping the girl asleep. The first time, the blonde had only glimpsed the signature before going for help. This time, she and Willow pressed deeper. The power holding Faith was old. The witches looked at each other and released the spell. "Oh, Goddess," Tara breathed.

"Um, yeah, that's not good," Willow agreed.

The elder Slayer grimaced. She hated it when the two witches did this. "Hello?" She waved a small hand. "In the room, and I need an explanation, please."

"We need to check with Giles, but I'm pretty sure the power behind that sleep thing is the First Slayer." Green eyes regarded her girlfriend apprehensively. "I think we missed a side effect or two."


The gathered Scoobies waited for Giles to make his announcement. They'd been pouring over the texts regarding the enjoining spell for nearly an hour when the Watcher had cleared his throat. "I believe we may have inadvertently roused the First Slayer's ire when we included Faith in the spell."

Without thinking, Willow muttered, "Gee, I think I said that a few times." The strained silence in the room alerted her to unsolicited remark. "Um, oops. I said that out loud, didn't I?"

Despite her lingering irritation, Tara ignored the snide comment, focusing on getting her Slayer out of danger. "Why would she be angry? Faith's a Slayer."

"That, I'm afraid, is the part that is still unclear." He rubbed the bridge of his nose in vexation.

"So, what do we do next?" Buffy wanted to know.

Giles sighed tiredly. "Well, we need to find out why the spell has been cast and what, exactly, is its purpose. Tara, did you and Willow pick up anything when you performed the divination?"

"Not really. Just a general sense of Faith's emotions," Willow answered.

Her blonde mentor agreed. "I'd be willing to try again, though. If we altered the wording of the incantation, we might be able to get a glimpse of what's going on in her head."

"Excellent, my dear. While you and Willow try that, the rest of us will keep looking for an explanation." He ignored the groans from Buffy and Xander. "I am most concerned with why this is happening. One last thing before you go, girls. During the enjoining spell, did any of you feel a malevolent will from the First Slayer?"

All three of the anchors looked at one another, trying to remember details from the battle with Adam. Joyce was the first to speak. "Not really, Rupert. I felt the others very clearly, but the other energy was simply there. I didn't get any real feelings from it, just an energy boost."

Only Tara had anything more to add. "When I noticed the power was dividing, I could tell She was confused, but I didn't get anything more. What are you thinking, Mr. Giles?"

"Oh, nothing, really. I just wondered if perhaps there was an issue with there being two Slayers." Giles grimaced. "Let's not borrow trouble. See if you can find anything out from Faith."

Not wanting to waste more time, Tara pulled Willow up the stairs, explaining along the way about the new spell. "I want to try getting an image of what she's seeing in the dream. Maybe that will tell us what's going on. When we start the chant, focus your energy on matching her brain patterns, and I'll handle the wording."

"OK." The redhead eyed her former girlfriend. "When did you get so take charge? I mean, no stutter, no blush, and no hesitation."

The familiar half-smile appeared. "Too much to worry about right now. Besides, it was really only a problem when I was nervous."

"Oh, yeah, when the Hellmouth is lobbing demons and nasties at you, the nerves tend to fade into do or die instinct," the redhead agreed. They reentered the bedroom. Willow knelt by Faith's head, one slim hand resting on her forehead. Tara stood behind her and began chanting. Pale light surrounded the three girls, linking them together. The novice witch struggled to guide the energy into the Slayer and match the faint electrical pulses she sensed in the brunette's mind. Finally, with an almost audible pop, the energy flowed together. Images flickered in the witches' minds.


Faith stopped moving and glared at the bearded man. "Not about a play? Then why all the freaky costumes and the stage?"

"Get down!" he commanded, pulling her flat to the ground. "Look, this really isn't the place for explanations."

Despite screaming Slayer senses, the brunette had reached her limit. "Then talk fast, cause I'm done with this crap."

Professor Z looked frustrated, but began talking. "This is all a dream. You aren't in Restfield or in a play, you're sound asleep. Unfortunately, this is a special dream. You won't wake up until you've passed several tests and chosen your path."

The Dark Slayer stared at her companion. "If it's a dream, why all the drama over the vamps and demons? It ain't like they can hurt me in my head."

"They can, Faith. They can even kill you. Remember, this isn't a normal dream. It's a vision quest. You are here to discover who and what you are and will become. I am your guide. I'm here to provide information when I can, and I will await you at the conclusion of your quest."

A twinge in her senses sent the Dark Slayer lunging at her guide. She reached him just in time. A knife buried itself hilt-deep in the spot the professor had been occupying. Faith dragged him to his feet and they ran through the pitch-dark cemetery, stumbling over headstones as they raced for the exit. Faith cursed the whole set up. She'd left Tara's room before going to the drama class with a knife and a stake. Now, she was unarmed.

"OK." She shoved the panting drama professor against a mausoleum. "Stay put. This may look like Restfield, but it ain't. We've been by this same place twice already. I need to find a weapon and take a look at what's following us." Leaving him, the Slayer quickly headed back toward their original position. Her senses stretched out, she kept watch for demons or vamps, but felt nothing. After several nerve-wracking minutes, Faith found the spot they'd been attacked. She frowned. There was no trace of anyone having been through the area. No footprints, no flattened grass where they'd hugged the ground, no knife.

Something wasn't right. Of course it ain't right. I'm in a dream. Cursing, the brunette decided to sweep the cemetery before returning to her guide. Spinning on her heel, Faith ran…


Tara had seen enough. Brushing Willow's mind, she began to pull away from the dream. "Did you get all that?"

"Yeah. Damn. A vision quest." The redhead sat back on her heels. "Is there a way we can help Faith with the tasks she has to complete?"

"Maybe. The guide said something about having to find herself. I want to talk to Mr. Giles, but we could try putting ourselves into the dream, picking the scenes. We'd have a chance to influence things, but we can't tell Faith what to do. Vision quests only work if the person experiencing them is sincere and genuine." Tara fell silent.

**

The vision quest didn't take long to explain to the re-gathered Scoobies. "I want each of us involved in the enjoining spell to take part in one of the tasks." Tara swept the room with determined blue eyes. "Pick something from your personal history with Faith – some moment when a different decision would have altered everything that followed."

"What about me?" Buffy queried. "I wasn't supposed to be part of the magic, but the First Slayer did touch me."

"Then you'll need to be a part of this, too." Tara frowned. Four women; four tasks. She hoped it would be enough. "Buffy, do you know what event you'll be focusing on?"

Swallowing her sudden unease, the Slayer nodded. "Yeah. There are a couple doozies to choose from, but I think I know which one was the most damaging to my relationship with Faith."


…down an alley. What the fuck? The thought stopped abruptly when a figure hurtled in front of her. Without thinking, the Dark Slayer swung her stake, pinning the vamp to the wooden crate behind it. When the vamp didn't turn to dust, the brunette looked closely at her opponent. Allen Finch stared back at her, confusion in his eyes and blood trickling from his mouth.

A leather-clad Buffy pushed the stunned teen out of the way. "Don't move," she told the Deputy Mayor.

"I-I-I didn't know." Faith felt sick. It couldn't be happening again. It had to be the freaking dream thing. "B, we have to get out of here." She started backing away, shaking her head.

"Faith, we need to call 911!" The blonde Slayer look terrified. The man on the ground didn't seem to be breathing.

Responding to her own not-so-inconsiderable terror, Faith pulled Buffy away from the corpse. "B, it's too late. We gotta motor before the cops get here." Unfortunately for the brunette, she'd forgotten just how stubborn her sister Slayer could be.

Wrenching away, the senior Slayer snapped, "I'm not leaving him here. It was an accident, Faith. The police will understand."

"No. They won't!" The Dark Slayer gave in to her fears, and sprinted from the alley. Fueled by adrenaline, she ran unseeing through downtown Sunnydale, the aftermath of Finch's death tumbling over and over in her mind. The streets were strangely deserted. No cars, no people. Sliding to a stop in front of Sunnydale's only movie theatre, the frightened teen tried to come up with a plan.

"Still running, Faith?" Professor Z's voice taunted.

Faith looked around, but she didn't see the drama professor. Forget the plan. She took off again, heading for the docks. However, as the brunette turned off Main Street, she ran…

…down an alley. Oh, come on already. The thought stopped abruptly when a figure hurtled in front of her. Without thinking, the Dark Slayer swung her stake, pinning the vamp to the wooden crate behind it. When the vamp didn't turn to dust, the brunette looked closely at her opponent. Allen Finch stared back at her, confusion in his eyes and blood trickling from his mouth.

A leather-clad Buffy pushed the stunned teen out of the way. "Don't move," she told the Deputy Mayor.

Faith froze. This had just happened. Praying to any god or goddess who would listen, she begged for the nightmare to stop. The Dark Slayer looked at her blood covered hands and her stomach heaved. Kneeling in the filthy alley, she vomited helplessly.

"Faith, we need to call 911!" The blonde Slayer look terrified. The man on the ground didn't seem to be breathing.

Wiping her mouth with a trembling hand, the brunette saw the fear in the hazel eyes. "We can't call the police, B. They'll lock us up."

"We can't just leave him here. He's human. We killed a human, Faith!"

"No, B." Sad brown eyes met frightened hazel ones. "I killed a human. You ain't involved. Go on back to the Super Friends." The brunette Slayer took a deep breath. "Once you're gone, I'll call the cops."

Buffy slowly stood, hands dangling at her sides. They were stained red from the Deputy Mayor's blood. "What?"

"Just go, B. One of us has to be here to take care of the Hellmouth. You're the Slayer, B. I'm just some white trash wanna-be." She gestured at the corpse. "I'll tell the cops it was an accident." A tiny inner voice screamed at the brunette, demanding she leave her counterpart to take the fall, but Faith ignored it.

"Why would you do that, Faith? I tossed him to you. We're both involved in this." Buffy held out a hand. "Don't do this alone. Come on. We'll call Giles."

Swayed by the silent plea in her sister Slayer's eyes, the younger girl nodded and took the offered hand. "OK, B. We'll do it your way."

The blonde grinned at her. "See? That wasn't so hard."

The panic slowly faded, and Faith moved closer…

Part 28

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