DISCLAIMER: All things Buffy belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and lots of people in expensive suits. I’m not making any money here, just trying to create a happier Buffyverse for my favorite characters.
SPOILERS: Starts during the events of “Earshot,” and contains spoilers for the remainder of S3.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Second Chances
By rebelrsr



Buffy watched Giles shelving books. "Is this the thing? The Aspect thing?" She stepped in front of the librarian, blocking his access to the shelves. For one second, Giles, can you just focus on what I'm saying? "Cause if it is, I gotta say, it's way better than a tail."

With an expression of annoyance, the Watcher reached over the blonde's head and removed several more books from the shelf. Holding his precious cargo carefully, he walked away from the excited Slayer. "Really, Buffy, calm down. I'm not even sure if this is actually mind reading. You could just be projecting…"

Buffy followed the older man down the stairs to the large table in the center of the library. Perching on the edge, she replied, "When I first walked into the library, you thought, 'My God, look at those shoes. If a fashion magazine told her to strap cats to her feet she would.'" Find a way out of that one, Giles. It is mind reading; I know it. She watched in amusement as he pursed his lips and stared at her in bewilderment.

Of course. The demons are telepathic. That's why they don't have mouths. I should've known.

The blonde smirked, waiting for Giles to vocalize the thoughts she'd just heard. Right on cue, he turned to her and said, "The demons are telepathic."

"I know." At Giles' questioning look, she continued, "You just told me. That's why they don't have mouths. And you should have known. I mean, it's weird. Think about all the things I could do with this

Finally, the Watcher seemed to catch some of the Slayer's enthusiasm. "Extraordinary. It could be very useful. You could use it to anticipate your opponents every move. You- you could turn his plans against him."

Well, I was thinking something a little different, but OK. "Right, Giles. So, is this a permanent thing? Do I get to keep the Aspect or does it go away after a few rounds in the spin cycle?"

"Buffy," he said, disapproval clear in his voice, "this isn't the time for levity. We are on the eve of the Ascension. And, we still have very little information to go on."

"Sorry, Giles." She slid off the table. "Well, I'd love to stay and research with you, but class, you know," she said, gesturing toward the doors. "Maybe Will, Xander, and I can come by after classes and help out."

"Of course, Buffy. Your help is always appreciated." Although, I'm not sure help is the proper phrase. Do they still teach reading here?

The Slayer bit back an angry remark, and flounced out of the library.

The thrill of her new powers hadn't lessened an hour later as English class wound down. Picking up the thoughts of her classmates gave the Slayer an edge she hadn't anticipated. For perhaps the first time, the blonde and underachieving student had been the center of attention. It was so worth it to see everyone looking at me like I was the brain, and not Willow, Buffy thought. And what was up with the 'Buffy understood the reading' comment anyway? Her internal debate continued as the Slayer walked down the crowded hallway.

She spotted Xander and Willow by the lockers and joined them. "Hey, guys. How's it going?"

Willow glanced at her and smiled. "Good. So, Buffy," she said, leaning close, "looks like someone decided to hit the books last night. Shoulda let me know. We could have had a Study Party."

"Ooh, yeah, Will. Cause everyone wants to hang out and read plays by dead Englishmen," Xander chimed in. He yelped and jumped back when the redhead smacked him on the arm. "Hey, watch it, I bruise easily."

"Sorry, Wills. No studying for me." Buffy made sure no one was close enough to hear their conversation. "It's the Aspect. I found out what it is."

"What?!" Willow's voice squeaked out. "I don't see a tail, and-and no horns, either."

The Slayer laughed. "Relax. It's OK. In fact, it's pretty cool. I can read thoughts. That's how I knew all those answers in class. I listened to everyone thinking about the question. Cool, huh?"

She wasn't expecting the silence that followed her statement.

Finally, Willow smiled. "That's great. I mean you enjoy the rest of your Slayer powers."

"Exactly. Giles thought I might be able to use it against some of the bad guys; you know, figure out what they were up to and stuff." Hmmm. Maybe that's not a bad idea. I bet Faith could tell me more about the Ascension than I could find in one of Giles' dusty books.

"Wow, Buffy. That sounds really great," Willow went on. But Buffy heard what her friend hadn't said. She's hardly even human anymore. How can I be her friend? She doesn't need me.

"No, Will. That's not true. I do need you." She grasped the hacker's arm. "Come on. This doesn't change anything. You guys are the Scoobies; I can't do this without you."

"Um, sure, Buffy." Willow sounded anything but sure.

The Slayer patted the arm she'd latched onto. "Great. Look, I know we need to talk more about this, but I've got something I want to check on. I think I have a lead on the whole Ascension thing."

Xander piped in from the sidelines, "Really? That's cool, cause Giles and Wesley don't seem to have a clue. So, Buffy, if you can read thoughts, what am I thinking?"

The blonde didn't even hesitate. "Xander, do you really think about sex all the time?" And, if you think I'm going to check out which fantasy is floating through your head, you've got another thing coming. The male Scooby flushed. "Don't worry, Xan. I won't let Cordelia know you still have the hots for her."

"Thanks," he answered. Then, "Hey, I didn't say that! Oh, right, guess I didn't have to," his voice trailed off.

"Right, then," Buffy said with a determined nod. "I'm off to see just how well this Aspect works on the enemy. Tell Giles I'll fill him in later."

The brunette barely heard the knock over the sound of fist meeting bag. Cursing, she stopped and wiped sweat out of her eyes. Another knock sounded. "Damn. All right, I'm coming."

"Whatever it is…" Faith flung the door open and stared at the blonde standing in front of her. "B."

"Hi, Faith. Can I come in?"

"Whatever," the younger girl muttered, stepping back and opening the door wide.

"Thanks." Buffy stopped a few feet inside the apartment and looked around. "Wow. Nice place. Guess working for the Big Bad pays well."

"Can't be any worse than Slayer pay," Faith snapped back. "Oh, that's right, you're not getting paid. So, I doubt you got lost in big old Sunny D. Say whatever you came to say and then get out. I got work to do."

After a moment's hesitation, the blonde said, "OK. Um, can I sit down? This might take a while. I don't really know how to say this." And that's the truth. I can't believe I came over here without a plan. How do I get her to think about the Mayor and the Ascension?

"If you got to." The other Slayer was anything but a gracious host.

Moving slowly, Buffy wandered farther into the apartment and sat on the rose-colored chaise. "Nice fruit basket; I've never seen one with daggers in it before."

"Yeah, look, B. Nice as it is to see ya and all, this really ain't a good time for me." Hurry up and spill, B. If the Boss finds out you're here, don't know what he'll do.

Buffy could see the brunette was nervous; although, she was making efforts to hide it. "Sure, Faith. Didn't mean to interrupt. Anyway, I wanted to warn you that there's this really creepy demon in town. Seems with the Ascension coming up, the Hellmouth is a popular place." She paused, staring intently at the other girl.

The stare didn't bring forth loads of information like Buffy had hoped. Instead, Faith looked at her in disbelief. "You came all the way over here to tell me that? What's the what, B? Why are you really here?"

"No joke, Faith. I came here to tell you about this particular demon. It's tall, kinda white, with no mouth. Apparently, you've got to be real careful around it. If it bleeds on you, you end up with some unknown Aspect of the demon."

No shit. I wonder what you get from tall and freaky? "Any idea what toy comes in the box, B?"

"Giles is looking into it. It's taking him awhile, though. Wesley has him researching the Ascension around the clock," the older Slayer answered.

Faith turned away quickly. Ah, yes, Wesley. Hope he's the first one the Boss eats after the transformation. "Still don't have a clue what's gonna happen, then, B?"

Buffy shrugged. "You know me, I never was one for the research."

"Yeah. Me neither."

Buffy had been listening intently to the brunette's thoughts when she was blindsided by a wave of bitterness. What the…? Damn, Giles didn't mention the demon could feel emotions, too. "So, Faith, I'm pretty sure I know the answer to this question, but…Still sure you made the right decision? I mean, it might be a bit bumpy at first, but we could really use your help with this one."

The blonde Slayer was braced for the reaction to her last statement. But, it wasn't what she expected. There was no anger – well, maybe a little. But the strongest emotion she sensed was sadness. Hell, B, ask the easy questions, why don't ya? Too bad you didn't realize I was worth your time a year ago. Maybe none of this would have happened.

When the brunette voiced her answer, nothing showed but contempt. "Fuck you, B. I'm sure your little Scoobies would welcome me with open arms. We'd all have a freakin party. And right after that, the Council pricks would show up to take me back to the Motherland."

Buffy couldn't mistake the fear that thought brought the younger girl. She needed to get the information about the Ascension. But between the mind reading and the emotions she was picking up, the blonde wasn't sure which side the other Slayer was really on. She stood up and walked over Faith.

"Come on, Faith. What do you say?" She reached out and touched the brunette's shoulder. "The Chosen Two together again. I miss that. A lot."

Fuck, so do I. Ain't never felt anything like that. Faith moved closer to her blonde counterpart and lowered her voice. "What are you offering, B?" She slid a hand up Buffy's arm, linking their fingers.

The younger girl was so close, Buffy could see her eyes darken and watch the flush crawl up her neck. Desire traveled through the emotional link. Damn, B. Just once, I wish this was real. Mind numbing grief and a sense of self-hatred mixed with the desire and Buffy nearly moaned at the painful combination.

"I'm offering you a spot on the winning team. Good friends. More chances to slay together. This is a chance to do what we were born to do, Faith. Slay demons, protect people from the Bad Guys."

She was getting to her. Buffy was ecstatic. She could feel the other Slayer's need to say yes. "Please, Faith. We're you're family. We need you." Buffy closed her eyes as Faith's emotions tumbled into her. Family. My God. How did we miss that? All she's ever wanted was to have a family.

"B, in case you missed the memo, I got a new family now." The harsh words clashed with the feelings Buffy shared with the other Slayer. "Don't need you or the Scoobies. The Boss takes real good care of me."

"I'm sure he does, Faith. But what happens after the Ascension? Will the Mayor still be able to give you what you want?"

Good question, B. Don't know

Faith's thoughts fuzzed out. Buffy shook her head slightly. She was picking up random thoughts from other people in the building. It was like listening to a dozen conversations all at once.

The brunette watched her closely. Something wasn't quite right. "B, you OK? Lookin kinda pale."

"Just a headache. Sorry. You were saying?"

"Hadn't said anything, B. But, the way I figure it, the Boss'll be there for me no matter what."

The blonde Slayer was having a hard time staying focused. The random thoughts that zipped through her mind were steadily increasing. She had a mission, though. She still needed to get information about the Ascension. Gritting her teeth against the growing pain, Buffy taunted. "Come on, Faith." Buffy took a stab in the dark and said, "Your Boss won't even be human after the Ascension. How can he possibly be family?" A little of Faith's anguish trickled through the clamoring voices. Softening her approach, the older girl continued. "Faith, I know we – I – didn't handle things well after Allan Finch died. I was scared. But, Giles and I were on your side. You're one of us, Faith. You always will be."

The brunette was listening again. Buffy stifled a sigh of relief. Concentrating on isolating her companion's thoughts, she said, "Please, Faith, give us another chance. Come home. You're the only one I can talk to who really understands the slaying."

Yeah, B. You got that right. Man, I miss the rush of slaying together.

The thoughts disappeared again, drowned out by other voices. Struggling to speak through the noise in her head, the blonde brought both hands up to massage her temples. It felt like the voices in her head were shouting. She swayed, gripping Faith's arm to stay upright.

"Buffy, what the hell is going on?" The brunette Slayer's voice faded in and out.

It was too much. The blonde screamed and doubled over. In an instant, Faith's thoughts were drowned out by hundreds, maybe thousands, of other mental voices. The older Slayer crumbled under the onslaught. "Faith, help me," she gasped out, just before everything went dark.



Faith reacted instinctively when Buffy collapsed. Grabbing the blonde around the waist, she managed to keep the other Slayer from falling to the floor. "B? B? Come on, damn it!" Buffy's pallor and her pain-filled moans panicked the brunette. What the hell should she do? I need to call Giles, she thought. Dragging her blonde burden to the bed, Faith got the unconscious girl settled and raced back to the phone.

The rogue Slayer was surprised when she noticed her hands shaking as she dialed the Sunnydale High School Library. After a few rings, a smooth British voice stated, "You've reached the Library. Mr. Wyndham-Pryce speaking. How may I help you?"

Fuck. Wes. Why couldn't Giles answer the phone? Faith hesitated, weighing her options. Talking with her former Watcher might help Buffy, but certainly wouldn't make her life any better. She knew something had to be done, as the continued whimpering from the alcove echoed hauntingly.

"Hello? Is anyone there?" Wesley's voice sounded in her ear.

Faith was clear that asking the Council member's help wasn't going to be part of the plan. Yet, she still wasn't sure what her next move should be. She hung up the phone and sat down at the small table.

What the hell am I gonna do? She can't stay here. I don't know what's wrong with her and if the Boss finds out I've got her, he's gonna want me to kill her.

Filled with nervous energy, Faith sprang out of the chair and began pacing. Her thoughts whirled as she tried to find a workable solution to her problem. Despite the size of the apartment, the Slayer soon tired of making circuits around the furniture. She ended her trek by the bed, and stood gazing at the tossing, mumbling blonde. "OK, B, what should I do, huh? You can't stay here, and I can't take you to Giles. We need to get you home so the Super Friends can find out what's wrong.

"Whoa! That's it, B," the brunette said to the other girl. "I'll call your mom." Relieved to finally have a plan, Faith went back to the phone.

It took a few minutes for the gallery's receptionist to put the older Summers on the line. "This is Joyce."

"Hey, Mrs. S. It's Faith, um, Buffy's friend." OK, not exactly true. "Um, Buffy came over to my place, and I – she wasn't feeling very well."

"Buffy's at your place? Why isn't she in school?"

Great. I don't have time to play Twenty Questions with the mom of the year. "Honestly, Mrs. S, I don't know. She just kinda showed up to tell about some demon that's in town. While we were talking, she started acting funny. Said she had a headache. The next thing I know, she's out cold."

"What?! Faith, have you called Mr.Giles?"

"Well, yeah, but he didn't answer."

"OK. Just tell me where you live and I'll be right there."

"Sure." Faith rattled off directions before putting the handset back on the wall. She slowly made her way back the other Slayer. "Your mom's on the way. Now, how do I get you outta here without someone seeing us?"

A quick glance around the apartment didn't provide any clues. "OK, B, guess we'll just take you right out the front door. Boss's got vamps for lackeys; they've got a problem with the sunlight. Maybe I won't need to tell him you were here. What do you think?" Buffy's only response was a pained moan. "Yeah, you're right. Sounds pretty thin. While I'm hauling your ass down to the car, I'll think of something to tell the Boss when he asks about it."

The brunette decided enough time had passed. "Just so you know, I'm not coppin' a feel here. So don't wake up and freak on me, 'kay?" Shaking her head at the one-sided conversation, Faith bent over the bed and scooped up the other girl. Making sure she had the other Slayer securely, she headed for the door. The trip down in the elevator was silent. Faith was too busy thinking up possible excuses to be very talkative with her blonde bundle.

Once at street level, the brunette Slayer extended her senses to the fullest. "Right, B. Seems we have an audience. Hope you appreciate all the trouble I'm gonna be in from saving your pathetic ass. Huh, wonder why I'm even bothering? Boss'd give me a fucking medal if I brought you in." Faith frowned. The idea bothered her for some reason. "Nah. When the time's right, you and me are going to do this up right. I'll prove to you and the rest of your posse that I'm the better Slayer."

She carried the smaller girl outside to the waiting car. Joyce Summers hopped out and ran around the car to open the passenger door. "Oh, my God, Faith. How long has she been like this?"

"Not long. Half an hour or so, I guess." Faith deposited Buffy into the car and stepped back. "Maybe you'll have better luck reaching G-man. I'm sure he and the Scoobs will know what to do."

"Thank you, Faith." Joyce surprised the rogue Slayer with a brief hug before getting into the car and driving off.

Staring at the departing Jeep in bemusement, the brunette came to a decision. Have to get to the Boss before his boys rat me out, she thought, heading back to the apartment to change clothes.

With a small groan, Buffy slowly opened her eyes. Her mother, Giles, and the rest of the Scooby gang surrounded her bed.

I think she's waking up she heard Willow think.

Hard on the heels of that, Xander commented, She's OK.

Other thoughts trickled in, too, causing Buffy to close her eyes again in a vain attempt to block out the sounds. "Shut up!" she shouted.

Her gathered family stepped back at her outburst. "I'm sorry, I - . Just could you guys not think so loud," she begged. Then, feeling the continued assault of their mental voices, she continued, "Or so much?"

Looking harried, the ex-Watcher gently herded all of the teens from the room. He and Joyce took spots on the bed, one to either side of the Slayer. "It's going to be OK, sweetie." Her mother patted her arm through the blanket. "Can I get you anything? Another pillow? Something to drink?"

Despite the cacophony in her head, the younger Summers noticed how jumpy her mother was. "Mom, I'm fine. Well, OK, maybe not fine fine, but I don't need anything right now." She tried to smile. "Thanks, though."

"No problem, dear. Now, I'll just leave you with Mr. Giles." Joyce headed swiftly for the door.

Buffy watched her in confusion until she was able to isolate her mother's thoughts from all the others.

Great. If I can just get out of here before she hears me thinking about that night with Rupert.

"Mom?" Buffy said, sitting up in bed. "You had sex with Giles? " Then, louder, "You had sex with Giles?"

"Oh, good Lord," the man in question exclaimed. "Buffy-"

He didn't have a chance to finish. Joyce Summers answered for him, facing her daughter with an apologetic expression. "It was the candy. We were teenagers." Unfortunately, thinking about the experience brought the details close to the surface, and right into her daughter's mind.

"On the hood of a police car?" Buffy nearly shouted.

Joyce realized she had to leave the room. Yanking the door open, she mumbled, "I'll be downstairs. You feel better." She was still too slow. The last damning memory reached Buffy.

Feeling nauseous from the pain in her head and the wild thoughts in her mother's mind, Buffy shouted after Joyce's fleeing form, "Twice?" Receiving no answer, she turned on Giles. "I can't believe you had sex with my mother. That's…that's," she couldn't find the words to express her revulsion.

"That's really not an issue right now, Buffy," her Watcher said calmly. "We need to focus on your telepathy and how to help you block out the thoughts."

Glaring at him, the Slayer was unwilling to move past the disturbing revelation. However, the continued chattering in her mind persuaded Buffy that Giles might be right. "Fine. But we will talk about this later."

"Yes, well, you are not the only person to have been infected with this particular Aspect." Giles seemed much more comfortable now that they were back in research mode. "There aren't a lot of details unfortunately."

"There is a way to block out the voices, though, right?" Giles removed his glasses and began to clean them with a handkerchief. "Giles? Come on, you said we needed to focus on blocking out the thoughts. So there's a way to do that, right?"

"Well, Buffy, I believe there is a way. I simply haven't been able to find any documented cases of actual telepathy."

The Slayer stared at the older man in horror. Although the swarm of conversations pounding at her had lessened since her collapse at Faith's apartment, the remaining voices hurt. Forcing herself not to panic, for the moment at least, she lay back against the pillows. "You and Wills are still looking for a solution?" It came out as more of a statement than a question. After two years, Buffy trusted Giles to have her back.

"Of course, my dear," he was quick to reassure her. "I even have Wesley working through channels with the Council to see if they have any useful records."

"Alright. I'll just try and get some rest while you guys keep looking." Buffy hesitated. "I'll be OK. I mean, even if this doesn't go away?"

"You'll be fine." Giles said unconvincingly. "I promise." He stood and moved toward the door.

Buffy curled into a ball on the bed, Giles' unspoken comments repeating endlessly in her head, If this doesn't go away, she'll go insane.



Despite her attempts to sleep, Buffy couldn't ignore the voices in her head. Even isolated on the second floor, thoughts from houses down the block and people walking by intruded. And, let's not forget all the heavy thinking going on downstairs, the tired Slayer thought. She knew her friends were doing their best; after all, she was privy to all of the ideas being investigated. However, they had yet to find anything useful and she could tell they were getting desperate. Grabbing a robe from her closet, Buffy decided to join the research party. No one was going to be comfortable with her presence, but it wasn't like she couldn't hear them thinking while in her room. They would all just have to learn to deal.

Donning the robe and some fuzzy bunny slippers, the blonde descended the stairs. Willow was the first to notice her from her spot by the dining room table. "Buffy! What are you doing up?"

She shouldn't be out of bed. We-we still haven't found anything. And, now she'll be able to tell we don't really know anything.

The pain increased with proximity. Buffy grimaced as the dull pain flared to a sharp stabbing behind her eyes. "Hey, Will, don't worry. I, um, I could hear you guys thinking upstairs. It's cool. We'll keep looking. We always find an answer." Her reassurance brought a beaming smile to the freckled face. "So, where should I start looking?" she aimed at Giles.

"Oh, well, I suppose you might try this treatise on unexplained supernatural phenomena," he stammered, holding out a thick tome.

"Great. Let's get to work," Buffy said, dropping into a chair and trying to focus through the swarm of mental voices.

Buffy was never really sure what went on for the next couple of hours. She knew she flipped pages and looked at the words. But everything kept blurring. Her mind refused to stay on a single topic, jumping from subject to subject as thoughts zinged into her head.

Suddenly, Giles sat up straight and gestured at the book he'd been reading. "Here. Apparently, there is an antidote." He stopped and read silently for a few minutes. "Unfortunately, it requires the heart of the second demon."

Standing up and grabbing his jacket, Xander said. "So, what are you waiting for? Let's go find this demon and cut him open."

"I only wish it were that simple," the older man said tiredly. "Unfortunately, as Buffy can attest to, this demon is very hard to subdue. Even if we were able to defeat it, I'm not sure how we can extract the heart without also being infected with the Aspect."

"So not what I wanted to hear, G-man." Xander dropped his jacket and sat down again.

Why did he even mention this if we can't do it? I mean, Buffy's sitting right here! We should concentrate on being positive.

The Slayer wanted to cry at the young man's thought. They were all pushing themselves to the limit for her. She closed her eyes and leaned her forehead on the table. It was getting harder to cope with the constant voices. She sat there, listening to the verbal and mental dialogues swirling around her.

"Giles, maybe we're looking at this from the wrong angle," Willow said hesitantly.

"What do you mean, my dear?" He looked at the redhead questioningly.

Tucking some hair behind her ear, she went on. "Well, we've been looking for a way to help Buffy block out the thoughts or on an antidote. We have an antidote we can't use and no idea how to block out the thoughts. I think we need to find another demon that is immune to the Aspect."

"I don't see how that is relevant." The strain was getting to Giles, too. He was very close to snapping at the well-intentioned Willow.

Buffy raised her head, intending to defend the young hacker. However, despite the fiery blush that climbed from neck to hairline, Willow met the older man's gaze. "If there is such a demon, Mr. Giles, they might be able to get the heart for us."

Silence filled the room – at least vocal silence. Buffy's mind still strained with the volume of mental voices. Trying to sound as normal as possible, Buffy broke the quiet. "Giles, is there a demon that can't be infected? 'Cause right now, the antidote sounds like a great thing."

"Yes, of course," Giles murmured. "Let's refocus our efforts on locating a demon immune to telepathy."

No one groaned out loud, which was surprising. The Scoobies as a general rule were anti-research. Buffy braced herself for the unspoken groans, but didn't hear any. Her friends' thoughts showed their exhaustion, but also faint glimmers of hope. Deciding now might be a good time to isolate herself again, Buffy slowly stood up. "I think I've had enough research for a while. Sorry to leave it all to you guys."

"Hey, Buff. No problem. We've got your back," Xander responded with a smile.

For the first time in hours, the Slayer smiled, too. Her friend's thoughts matched his words exactly. "Thanks, Xan. Let me know if you find anything, OK?" The blonde made her way back upstairs, closing her bedroom door before collapsing on her bed. Although she could still hear the voices, her body was finally tired enough to ignore them. She drifted into an uneasy sleep.

"Buffy," a voice said.

"Please, just go away," the Slayer mumbled. But as soon as she woke even a little, voices whispered in her mind. Whimpering, she grabbed her head. She didn't know how much longer she could endure the Aspect.

"Sweetie." Her mother sat down on the bed. "You said you wanted to know when we found something. Rupert and the children found a demon that is immune to the mind reading."

Hands still clutching at her hair, Buffy looked up. "Really? Which one? Is there one close by?"

The elder Summers smiled. "Yes. Very close by. Buffy, vampires are immune to the demon's blood. Angel is on his way to get the heart."

Faith walked into the Mayor's office without knocking. He was on the phone, his back to the door.

"Of course, Chief. I completely agree." His hands waved in the air as he talked. "No, I don't think you are unrealistic. Increasing patrols by the high school might cut down on the vandalism." Turning in his chair, he caught sight of the Slayer and smiled, face lighting up. He gestured for her to come closer and continued to talk. "Yes, Chief. That's fine. I'll bring it up at the next City Council meeting. Yes. Yes." He rolled his eyes at Faith. "Chief, someone just came into the office. I'll have to get back to you."

He hung up the phone just as Faith dropped into the chair in front of the desk, propping her boots on its surface. "Faith, how many times have I told you? Boots don't belong on desks." He stared at her reprovingly until she dropped them to the floor. "Those big things are more suited for kicking and stomping your enemies with." He stood up and came around the desk. "So, what has you in my boring old office instead of out partying with your little friends?"

"Buffy came to visit me today, Boss. Seems there's a new demon in town."

"Really?" The Mayor's tone made Faith's skin crawl. "And why would she give you this information."

"Oh, hell –" she began.

"Faith, language."

"Sorry. Anyway, you know B just can't resist making one last attempt to get me to rejoin the Super Friends." Faith chuckled at the idea.

The Mayor leaned against his desk and crossed thin arms over his chest. "And, you weren't the least bit tempted?"

"I'm here, aren't I?" the Slayer shot back.

"Well, yes, but I worry, you know. I don't really have much to offer you except a position of authority after my Ascension." He frowned slightly. "I've seen how working with the vampires gets to you."

Faith shrugged carelessly. "No problem, Boss. I just keep the end goal in mind."

Despite the easy smile on his face, the Mayor's eyes had hardened. "See that you do, Faith. I'd hate to think what would happen if you betrayed me."

Years of hiding emotions kept the Slayer's fear well hidden. Slouching further into the chair, the brunette smiled, dimples peeking out. "Never gonna happen, Boss. You're like my father, you know. You don't turn against family."

Her boss lightly touched her should and headed for the far wall. As he pressed the release that opened the hidden storage behind the wall, Faith heard her sister Slayer in her mind, pleading:

"Please, Faith. We're you're family. We need you."

She stood quickly, needing to do something to block the memory. "Hey, Boss, you want details on the demon, or are we good?"

"Patience, Faith. Just let me get a few reference books and then you can tell me all about it," the Mayor said, scanning the shelves in front of him. "Ah, there. I knew I left them here after Mr. Trick came to town." He pulled two leather-bound books out of the alcove and returned to his desk. "Now, my dear, tell me what the other Slayer had to say."

"Um, well, I guess it isn't much, now that I think about it." Faith hesitated. "B said the demon was tall and white. Before she passed out, she was talking about something called an Aspect that you could get if you touched the demon's blood."

"Ooh, sounds spooky." The Mayor flashed his quirky grin and opened one of the books. "The Aspect of the Demon? Sounds vaguely familiar." He flipped rapidly through the first book while Faith paced the room. "Did she mention anything else?"

Faith thought back over her strange conversation with Buffy. "Yeah. The demon didn't have a mouth."

"Really?" he asked, sounding very intent.

The Slayer stopped pacing and looked at the Mayor. "Wouldn't lie to you about something like that."

Despite pouring over the second book, her surrogate father waved an apologetic hand. "Didn't mean it like that, Faith. It's just a very interesting piece of news. I wonder…" He turned a few more pages. "Got it! I knew that demon was familiar. Here, Faith, come look."

Scowling, the brunette reluctantly joined the Mayor at his desk and glanced at the book. "Huh, I thought vamps were ugly," she commented after seeing the sketch.

Wilkins laughed. "Now, dear, beauty isn't what counts in the demon world. It's power. And this particular demon is a telepath."

Faith raised her eyebrows, a bored look pasted on her face.

Seeing this, the older man sighed. "Faith, Faith, Faith, what am I going to do with you?" He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and hugged her to his side. "I believe you mentioned that your blonde friend passed out?" When the girl as his side nodded, he went on, "Did she complain of headaches by any chance?"

Pulling away, the Dark Slayer said, "Yeah. How'd you know?" Fuck. Please don't let there be cameras or shit in the apartment.

"Simple," the Mayor beamed. "I'm willing to bet Buffy has already been infected with the demon's telepathic ability. It says right here," he pointed to a section of text, "that no human has ever survived after receiving the gift." He read a bit more and frowned. "Well, darn. It looks like there's an antidote."

Closing the book with a thud, he turned to look at Faith. "I think it's time you made sure Buffy isn't a threat to my Ascension any more."

He was watching the Slayer closely, but Faith kept her expression blank. "What's the job, Boss? You know I'm up for anything."

"Yes. Yes, I think you are," he said, his smile evil. "I need you to find the demon and kill it."

"Cool. Demon duty is right up my alley." Faith grinned with relief and started for the door. "I'll check with your boys and see if they've got a location."

"Not so fast, Faith." Startled, the brunette spun to face the Mayor. "There's more. You can't just kill this one. The antidote for the Aspect is to drink its heartblood. You'll need to removed its heart after it's dead. That way, no one can keep Buffy from going insane."

Forcing herself to nod. "Got it, Boss. One dead demon without his heart. I'm on it." She turned back to the door, but Wilkins had one final piece of advice.

"One other thing, dear. You might want to be very careful when you kill this demon. I would be heartbroken if you were infected, too. There might not be another one around to provide the antidote for you. And two crazy Slayers, well…let's just take some extra precautions, OK?"

Part 4

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