DISCLAIMER:- Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all the characters belong to Joss Whedon, Warner Brothers and anyone else who own them - and that does not include me. I am making no profit from this - I'm just borrowing them to write a story and entertain.
INFORMATION:- This may seem a little weird but I have never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I have, however read a ton of fanfic and been totally enthralled by it. So much so that I wanted to write a story myself. With that in mind, I can safely say that there should be no spoilers in here! Please remember that I have no idea about canon though - so if I put Buffy living at home with her mum, then don't worry about it too much. It's the characters that I'm borrowing not the plotlines!
Having read a fair bit of fiction, I have set this approximately three years after Faith confesses to the police in LA. I have not included the Dawn/Glory storyline as that just confuses the hell out of me. Any other glaring errors should just be glossed over - just enjoy the story (I hope!)
RATING: PG-13 I think - but if anyone thinks it should be higher let me know.
PAIRING: Faith/Cordelia along with W/T A/X
FEEDBACK: Yes please. Rebelgirl_uk@yahoo.co.uk

The Varos Triad
By Rebelgirl

Part One:-

The only good thing about the rain was that it made the streets glisten, thought Buffy darkly as she and her companions hurried through the precipitation on their way to The Bronze. She tugged her dark brown jacket round her more closely and felt the comforting dig of a stake as it nudged her in the back. A girl could never be too prepared. Riley swung an arm round her and she leaned in close, sheltering from the drizzle but she could not glean any warmth from his body. Buffy wondered absently if it was for physical reasons or psychological ones. Ever since his return, the blonde slayer had pondered over their relationship and was beginning to think that perhaps she had lost the feelings she once harboured for the ex Initiative member.

Willow and Tara were right behind them, holding hands and walking briskly, heads bent slightly against the poor weather. As a group, they hadn't visited The Bronze for some time and it had been Xander's eager suggestion that they rectify that scandalous oversight as soon as possible. He and Anya flanked the two wiccans in a move that surprised everyone. Anya was usually inseparable from the dark haired man.

The small, blonde slayer had agreed to a night out but knew that she would have to cut it short and go patrolling. Demon and vamp activity had both escalated dramatically in the last month, yet they were still no closer to finding out why. She also had a niggling thought in her head that she was using the increase to keep her distance from Riley.

As they continued down the street, Buffy and the scoobs heard the roar of engines behind them and realised as the noise crescendoed that the sounds belonged to two motorbikes, both of which were obviously going ridiculously fast.

Even as the group looked up, they saw the approach of the vehicles. The motorbikes were neck and neck in the middle of the road and the riders seemed intent on beating the hell out of each other, despite the fact that the bikes were both veering dangerously as each punch was swung.

"Wow," breathed Xander. "Real life Road Rash," he remarked in awe, referring to one of his older play station games.

The small slayer stopped and watched the incident closely and as the two combatants roared past she realised that her slayer sense was going off the scale. The gang watched as the bikes continued down the street before ploughing into a row of small trees, catapulting the two riders into the nearby cemetery.

All of them remained motionless for a fraction longer before Riley broke the spell and began jogging toward the cemetery. With his movement, the others quickly shook themselves out of their reverie and ran after the tall man, Buffy instinctively taking the lead as soon as she caught him up.

As they approached the graveyard, the gang could see that the fight had not abated. The two fighters were physically uneven. One towered over the other and was almost as broad as he was tall. His face was misshapen and had an unearthly green hue, glowing iridescently with the light emitted from the gibbous moon reflecting off it. The other was lithe and sleek, dwarfed by the demon's height. The fighter was totally decked out in black leather and heavy black boots. Despite the physical differences, there appeared to be no mismatch in ability and the two pugilists continued with their onslaught into each other in a spectacular fight and the scoobs came to a halt to watch, mesmerised by the sheer brutality of the battle before them as the opponents exchanged blow after vicious blow.

The smaller fighter still wore a crash helmet, but it was suddenly grabbed and yanked off, releasing a waterfall of dark brown, tousled hair that cascaded gently over the combatant's shoulders. With its release, both Xander and Willow got an uneasy feeling of recognition but for Buffy, the long dark hair merely confirmed the identity of the fighter.


The others glanced round at Buffy and then shared nervous looks as she breathed the name of the rogue slayer but their attention was drawn back to the fight as Faith continued to slug it out with her opponent.

Her newly released hair accentuated the sudden movement of her head snapping round as the big fighter swung the newly acquired crash helmet straight into her jaw, sending the slender figure flying over two gravestones and crashing onto the ground.

All the scoobs winced at the ferocity of the connection but their faces became round in astonishment as the fallen fighter sprang back up and attacked once more, barely acknowledging the previous blow.

"She's in good shape," commented Buffy neutrally as they continued to watch the battle.

Tara stared at her. "Aren't you going to help her?" She queried. She had heard about Faith's exploits in great detail from Willow and the others but she was not prepared to watch anyone suffer at the hands of a demon, whatever their history.

"No," returned Buffy in an icy voice that brooked no argument. Willow and Xander both nodded their heads in agreement.

Tara wanted to say more but returned her attention to the fight as she wracked her brains for a spell that might assist Faith. Her only experience with Faith had been when she had been cruel to her whilst occupying Buffy's body. Despite the hurtful words that had made Tara feel extremely uncomfortable at the time, the blonde witch firmly believed that Faith was not pure evil. She had no reason to hate the woman and would not jump on the bandwagon and join in her condemnation.

Faith swung her leg round to deliver a crunching kick to the demon's jaw and quickly followed it up with a sharp right jab. Her head was still spinning from the hit to her face but she was in automatic fighting mode now and would not appreciate the full extent of her injuries until the adrenaline rush wore off. She could hear the demon's breathing becoming laboured and dodged a wildly swinging attack from one of his huge fists. As she ducked, she swept a leg out and connected with his right shin, prompting an enraged howl of agony from the demon. He threw his fists at her again and Faith had to work hard to bob and weave, avoiding his attacks and wearing him out.

After connecting a powerful roundhouse kick to the demon's chest, the rogue slayer yanked a bowie knife out from her right boot as he reeled back before circling him cautiously. There was still plenty of fight left in the huge monster, and now that Faith had advertised that she was tooled up, she suspected that he was going to play hard.

Her suspicions were confirmed as the massive demon came thundering towards her. She blocked his first punch easily but was swamped by his sheer bulk and the two of them went rolling to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs.

Buffy remained motionless as the two fighters crashed to the ground. She watched carefully as they traded jabs and elbows, neither one of them able to put any real force into their attack. Suddenly, Faith's knife glinted in the moonlight before being buried deep into the demon's chest. It let out a howl of indignant rage before slumping onto the ground, it's sticky black blood hissing and steaming as it escaped its body.

Faith retracted the knife and wiped the blade on the clothing of the fallen demon before sheathing the weapon. She dragged herself to her feet, and then perused the body that was melting slowly into the wet earth of the graveyard.

Xander frowned as he watched the demon disappear and wracked his brain for a throwaway comment but he was still reeling from the shock of Faith's return to force any words out of his already open mouth.

The lithe brunette knelt down next to the steaming mass and rummaged through the demon's clothing methodically before pulling out a small object. Her teeth gleamed in the moonlight as she smiled, pocketing the object in triumph before dragging herself back to her feet, only now groaning at the injuries she had sustained during the encounter.

The taller slayer turned round to face her audience and looked at them carefully before speaking. "Thanks B. Couldn't have done it without you."

Her statement caused Buffy, Xander and Willow to remember their first encounter with Faith outside the Bronze and all three stiffened. The blonde slayer sneered at the sarcastic comment and stepped forward to face her nemesis. "Shouldn't you be in jail?" She accused.

"Done my time, B," replied the Bostonian. "I was released last year."

"Since when has a murderer only had to serve three years?" Exploded Willow from behind Buffy.

"It's a long story Red," replied Faith. "And I'm sure you ain't interested anyway."

Buffy took charge once again. "What are you doing here Faith? You're not wanted."

Faith smiled again, but it failed to reach her eyes. "Just doin' my job, B."

Buffy snorted at the remark. "You mean murdering people again."

"Last time I heard, people didn't melt into the ground when you stabbed 'em," rejoined Faith, starting to feel a little cornered by the interrogation. Truth be told, she had never intended to come here but the damn demon wouldn't give up the fight and she had chased him all the way from LA to retrieve the artefact it had in his possession.

"No, you dispose of those bodies in a different way," retorted Buffy bitterly.

Faith's mask of indifference cracked just for an instant and a look of painful remorse ghosted across her features before her barriers once again asserted themselves. Tara was the only one to notice the emotion and examined the aura surrounding Faith. It was plain to see that the woman had changed. Her aura was less chaotic, with a more balanced feel to it. The blonde witch could not sense any evil radiating from her.

"Just get out of here you psycho," threatened Riley, moving up to stand just behind the blonde slayer.

Faith barely spared the man a look before returning to staring at Buffy. "I'm done with all that shit B," she began.

"I told you last time I saw you Faith, do not apologise to me," warned the smaller slayer. She had unconsciously adjusted her feet into a fighting stance and had tensed her muscles, prepared for another fight.

Faith saw the movement and sighed inwardly. Just returning to the outside world had been hard enough. Making up for her previous wrongs looked like it was going to be impossible. As she was about to reply, she felt her cell phone vibrate in her top left hand pocket. She had put the phone there before setting off after the demon but had been unable to field the calls. It had been buzzing periodically for the last two hours. Automatically, she shoved her right hand into her jacket to retrieve the phone.

Buffy saw Faith reach inside her jacket and reacted purely on instinct. Already on the balls of her feet, she sprung forward and knocked Faith to the floor, holding onto Faith's right forearm with her left hand so that she was unable to retrieve the weapon she was concealing in her jacket. Her right hand whipped back and then punched the chestnut haired girl in the jaw hard.

Faith winced as Buffy struck the same spot as the crash helmet had hit her only moments before. She looked up at Buffy, who had straddled her and moved her knees up to pin the younger slayer onto the ground by her shoulders.

"B, is there some law in Sunnydale that prevents people from answering their phones?" Faith asked carefully, forcing herself not to struggle back and perhaps provoke another attack.


"My phone just buzzed, B. I was trying to answer it," Faith explained slowly, trying desperately not to allow any more sarcasm to creep into her intonation.

Buffy jammed her hand into Faith's jacket and rummaged round till she located a hard object in the inside pocket. She yanked the thing free from the jacket and stared at it momentarily. A second later, she had the decency to blush before getting up slowly. As she released the Bostonian, her mask of hatred returned. "Pardon me for not believing you, *F*," she retorted icily as she returned to stand with the scoobies, tossing the cell phone at Faith when she was level with them.

Faith sat up slowly, rubbing her jaw gently before picking up the phone that had bounced into the dirt. She glanced at the display and realised that she had missed 24 calls. Tapping in a number she knew by heart, the dark eyed slayer stood up as she waited for the other end to pick up, noticing that Buffy and the others were scrutinising her carefully.

"Hey, it's me," she announced into the receiver when the connection was made. There was a fractional pause before she continued. "Guess where I am."

There was a longer pause this time before Faith's face split with a rueful grin. "Jeez, you'd think I'd have learnt not to play that game with a seer by now."

Buffy and the scoobies looked at each other in surprise. Faith appeared to be totally at ease with whoever she was talking to. They were then startled by a soft chuckle of genuinely amused laughter before Faith continued. "I know. Is dead boy there?" Faith looked at the others with an unreadable expression as she waited. The scoobs made the connection. She was talking to someone in the office in LA. Buffy was feeling uneasy about Faith's behaviour. For someone who had subjected an ex-watcher with the five basic torture groups and tried to kill Angel, she was conversing with them in a remarkably relaxed manner.

"Hey Soul boy. What's the what?" There was another pause as she listened to Angel. "I've got the artefact but my bike's fucked. I won't be able to get back to you tonight." Faith started to pace as she listened to Angel reply, looking nervously at her audience. Tara instinctively smiled sympathetically, realising that Faith's nerves were of their making and wanting somehow to put the young woman at ease. Faith's eyebrows rose slightly at the gesture before a tiny smile tugged at the corners of her mouth in a grateful response. Noticing the look, Willow stepped closer to Tara and snaked a protective arm around the blonde wicca. Tara was just too trusting.

"Er, I dunno Soul boy. I'm not exactly Miss Popular round here," Faith was protesting. "Oh yeah, I've already bumped into her," she verified. The brunette stopped her pacing abruptly as she continued to listen. "I don't think that's gonna be a good idea," she hedged as she looked up at the group. Finally, she extended her arm and offered the phone to Buffy. "Angel wants to speak to you," she explained.

Buffy snatched the phone and held it to her ear. "Look Angel," she began without preamble. "I don't know what stunt she's pulled on you but I don't buy it. I don't want her here." Buffy stopped and allowed the brooding vampire to speak. "No, I don't *own* Sunnydale, but I'm sworn to protect people from evil. She just happens to be a human evil.."

Faith blinked at the words but steeled her face into a blank look.

"Just tell her to stay put there then. If she starts parading round town I'm gonna kick her ass back to Boston." Buffy ended the conversation by throwing the phone back at Faith.

"Hey, it's me again," Faith spoke into the receiver in a hushed tone. She turned away from the group as Angel spoke to her. "Okay, but I'm not dusting...Yeah you too big guy, bye." She ended the call and returned the phone to her jacket. The dark haired slayer then swung back round to face the others.

"I don't know how you've managed to fool Angel, but be warned," Buffy spoke in an almost growl. "Do not attempt any of your old tricks here, Faith. I won't mess up next time." With that she ground on her heel and stalked off, Riley following quickly after shooting Faith a venomous look.

Xander paused before speaking for the first time. "Stay away from me and my friends," he warned simply before slipping an arm round Anya and leading her away from the cemetery.

Faith turned to Willow and Tara, bracing herself for the next onslaught. She did not have to wait long. "I won't be messed with again Faith," Willow hissed. "And I won't need a shovel. I have far more power than any physical instrument can provide and I'll use it against you if you cause any trouble." She put her hand into Tara's and tugged at her to get her moving.

To Faith and Willow's surprise, the blonde witch released her hand from the grasp momentarily and stepped forward. "I can see the change," she told Faith cryptically and offered the dark girl another smile before returning to Willow's side.

The auburn haired girl looked at Tara in surprise. "What's all that about?"

"You'll see," replied Tara enigmatically and followed after the other Scoobies as Willow shot Faith a final hard stare before falling in with Tara.

"Well, that went well," remarked Faith to herself. Sighing, she trudged over to where her bike lay in a tangled heap with the other motorcycle. She rubbed her neck absently as she surveyed the mess before yanking the bike back onto it's wheels. The front forks were bent and the handlebars and mirrors had taken a good bashing but other than that, the bike was reasonably sound. Fighting against the pull of the bike, Faith began the long walk up towards Angel's mansion.


Part 2:-

Buffy looked at the grim faces of her companions as they sat squashed into their usual booth at The Bronze. She knew her face reflected the sombre mood but she was determined that Faith would not ruin their night out. "Just forget about her tonight. She won't be going anywhere," she insisted.

"You hope," added Willow as she reached for her drink. She took a sip quickly before continuing. "I'm sorry Buffy but Faith being here is just too disturbing for me to sit back and relax."

Xander agreed though he was equally annoyed that their night out had soured so quickly.

"Well, perhaps we should all just go home," suggested Anya. "We need to have sex," she told Xander candidly as the others just shook their heads.

"Perhaps Anya's right," sighed Buffy. "Well, about the first part I mean," she qualified as she was met with four looks of astonishment and one look of smug satisfaction from the ex vengeance demon. "We'll just put this night out on hold for a few days. Faith will be gone as soon as she repairs her bike and then we can all go out without worrying what she's up to."

Tara shifted uncomfortably in her chair. She knew how deeply the feelings ran in the group concerning Faith but the shy woman knew it would be wrong of her to ignore what she had seen and not tell the others. "Buffy, Faith's c-changed," she began, realising that her stutter had returned for the first time in a long while.

The slayer narrowed her hazel eyes at the blonde witch. "Tara, you'd see the good in Satan if you met him," she returned, hoping to stop Tara's comments before she really began them.

Tara, however, was not fazed by the retort. "I saw her aura Buffy," she explained softly.

"Then she's tricked you into thinking that it's showing something else," decided Willow. She was starting to get upset by Tara's continued defence of the rogue slayer. "It doesn't matter what you say, I'll never trust her."

Tara sat back slightly at the comment. Willow had meant it to be a damnation of Faith, but the shy wiccan couldn't help but take it personally too. "D-don't you b-believe me?"

Willow, realising that she had upset her lover, though unsure how, closed the distance between them immediately and placed a reassuring kiss on her lips. "It's not that, honey," she demurred quietly. "But what you're seeing isn't Faith."

"Damn right," agreed Xander forcefully. "That bitch can't change. And I'm not sure I'd want to know her even if she could."

Tara looked round miserably as she saw everyone else's heads nod in agreement. "You're wrong," she told the group determinedly.

"Let's just forget about Faith," repeated Buffy, irritated at how the dark slayer had managed to dominate the entire evening mostly without even being present. She stood up abruptly. "I'm going on patrol." She leant down and brushed her lips across Riley's, backing away before he had the opportunity to deepen the embrace. He looked at her uncomfortably but remained silent as she nodded to the others before leaving The Bronze.

Her departure effectively broke the night up and the others went their separate ways shortly afterwards.

As they strolled hand in hand back home, Willow mulled over Tara's behaviour since the arrival of Faith. "Why are you defending her?" She asked suddenly.

Tara stopped and turned toward the red haired witch. "B-b-because she hasn't had an opportunity to defend herself yet," she replied carefully.

"And she won't get one. She let everyone down time and again, before she even went bad. You don't know her Tara. You don't know what she's capable of doing."

"I saw her in the graveyard, Willow," Tara began. "I've seen the strength she possesses. You've told me all the stories so I do know what she's capable of. But what I saw today was not what I saw when Faith was occupying Buffy. I know I'm not going to convince you or anyone else Will, but at least respect my opinion."

Willow's eyes opened at the determination behind Tara's statement. She allowed the words to sink in slowly before wrapping her arms round her lover. "I'm sorry, Tara. I didn't mean to tell you what to think. I just don't want you to get hurt."

Tara returned the embrace tightly before kissing Willow sensuously on the lips. "I love you Will, and I know you want to protect me."

Willow recaptured Tara's lips, deepening the kiss. A slow moan escaped her as they continued and she pulled away reluctantly. "Home.....now," she gasped and tugged Tara's hand to underline the breathless statement.

Buffy twiddled her stake in her right hand. After marching out of The Bronze she descended on the nearest cemetery in the hope that she could take out her frustrations on the undead. Unfortunately the undead apparently did not want to play today and she spent a fruitless two hours patrolling mulling over the day's events. She was surprised at how Faith's reappearance had affected her. After seeing Faith give herself up in LA, Buffy had determinedly set aside her feelings for the dark slayer and allowed the well of hatred for Faith build up and enshroud every memory of the woman. There would be no more chances, no more opportunities for Faith to get under her skin only for the rogue slayer to hurt her again. When she looked up, she was surprised to find herself outside the door to her home. The blonde slayer looked steadily at Riley as he leant against the door.

"Wondered when you'd show," he commented softly.

"How long have you been waiting?" She asked him as she closed the distance between them.

"I came straight here. I didn't want to miss you."

Buffy winced as they embraced. He'd been waiting for over two hours for her, and she couldn't think of a single thing that she really wanted to say to him.

Riley sensed her discomfort and pulled back. "We need to talk."

The blonde slayer rolled her eyes at the statement. "What about, Riley? About you disappearing without so much as a goodbye, or your return, without an explanation?"

"Is this what all this is about?" Riley asked, perplexed.

"Yes. No. I don't know," hedged Buffy. "What I do know is that it just isn't the same as it was before."

"But we can make it the same," protested the tall man. He tried to pull Buffy back into his arms but she resisted and broke free altogether.

"Riley, you could explain everything to me a million times and it still wouldn't be right. I just don't have the same feelings for you anymore."

"Is there someone else?" Accused Riley, an angry edge tainting the words.

"No. Jeez, why does there have to be someone else? Why can't it be that I just don't love you anymore?" As soon as the words were out of her mouth Buffy went through a myriad of emotions. She was shocked that she had said the words so harshly and initially confused because it wasn't what she had intended to say at all. As soon as those thoughts were processed however, she realised that she had uttered the truth, and unfortunately hurt Riley deeply in the process.

"So that's that then?" He made the question sound like a statement and stepped past the small woman. "For what it's worth, Buffy, I still love you. I just can't compete with the whole 'Slayer' thing though, can I?"

Buffy remained silent as he stalked off, watching until he disappeared from view. "I never wanted you to compete," she murmured to his retreating form.

Once he was no longer visible, she let herself in and collapsed onto the couch, content to brood over the day's events wondering if anything else could go wrong. Her thoughts were rudely interrupted by the harsh tones of a ringing telephone.

She picked it up halfway through the fourth ring. "Hello?"

<Hey Buffy,>

"Angel. Two conversations in one day, people will talk." Buffy didn't mean to take her irritation out on the vampire but for the moment he was an easy target.

<Sorry to disturb you again. But this is something you need to know.>

"Don't tell me, the world about to end again?"

<Possibly. More likely to be thrown into a torment of perpetual Hell though,> replied the brooding vampire steadily.

"So you need my help then," sighed Buffy.

<No, actually we were going to offer our help,> returned Angel calmly.

"What?" Buffy sat up. "What are you talking about, Angel?"

<The demon that Faith chased to Sunnydale...>

"Oh God, not Faith again!" Exclaimed Buffy in exasperation.

Angel tried a second time. <The demon was just a soldier on an errand. The artefact he held can be used to perform a summoning when it is joined with two other artefacts. It forms part of the Varos Triad. Now that he no longer has it, more demons will be sent to retrieve it. Sunnydale's about to get invaded.>

"Why don't you just ring Faith and tell her to destroy the artefact?" Asked Buffy. "No more artefact, no more triad, no more summoning."

<The artefact can't be destroyed by simple means. It can only be destroyed when all three are bound together>

"What? That's ridiculous, and insanely unsafe."

<I have an artefact with me. Now that Faith has one, we only have one more to find...>

"Wait a minute," interrupted the blonde slayer once again. "What do you mean we? You got into this mess, surely you can get yourselves out of it?"

<That demon was headed to Sunnydale for a reason, Buffy> replied Angel, unperturbed by Buffy's rant.

Buffy rolled her eyes as she sank deeper into the couch. "When are you getting here then?" She asked in defeat.

<Tomorrow. Can you set up a meet with the others? Early evening?>

"I take it Faith has to be involved in all of this," remarked Buffy acidly.

<She's not the same person, Buffy. Give her a chance.>

"Oh no. She's already used up more than her fair share of chances. If she has to be part of this, then so be it. Just don't expect any welcoming committees for her. Well, none of the pleasant variety anyway."

<I'll see you tomorrow, Buffy.> Angel decided not to push his luck and hung up.

"Yeah, bye," returned Buffy into the buzzing receiver. She looked at the handset before returning it to the cradle and pinched the bridge of her nose. Well, it was her own fault for wondering if the day could get any worse, she decided.

Faith threw herself onto the couch and groaned. Her jaw still hurt and an ugly purple bruise had spread along her chin. She also had bruised ribs and a broken knuckle but her injuries would fade and become dull memories by the morning. She had been hungry earlier when she arrived at the mansion but Angel's fridge had been as empty as her stomach. Not wanting to provoke Buffy or her friends, Faith decided to stay put and had eventually managed to persuade the local pizza place to deliver to the mansion. The poor guy at the other end of the phone had eventually caved in when Faith told him that she'd serve his tongue as a topping if he didn't deliver it. Faith had felt bad about threatening the guy but a girl had to eat. She broke the habit of a life time and tipped the delivery boy before wolfing down the pizza with a large bottle of Coke.

Now she felt like she was splitting at the seams but it had been worth it.

Lying back into the couch, Faith drowsily relived the day's events, grimacing as her memory reminded her of the reunion with Buffy and the scoobies at the cemetery. The dark slayer almost regretted giving chase to that damned demon. She had sought out the demon in a deserted warehouse in LA, staking the place out after a tip off. Faith hadn't intended fighting the thing. It had taken Angel, Gunn and herself to down a similar demon earlier in the week. That demon had in it's possession a small gold casting that had been of great importance to Wesley. He had gone into research mode along with Angel who believed the object to be of great magical value. When Faith spotted the second demon, she had decided to report in so they could ambush it properly, but before she got the call in, Faith noticed that it held a similar artefact and was making plans to leave town. After a hurried phone call to Angel, she'd jumped on her motorbike and chased the thing all the way to Sunnydale, wondering how the hell they hadn't been pulled by the cops during the chase. Unfortunately Faith never managed to land anything more solid than the odd punch as she pursued it. The demon had obviously headed to Sunnydale for a reason. 'Probably the Hellmouth,' thought Faith sourly. It usually was. Unfortunately, it meant that she suddenly had a lot more to deal with than big ugly demons with wicked right hooks.

Her cell phone buzzed and rumbled across the table. Faith looked at it balefully as she decided whether to answer it or not. The second time it moved, she rolled off the couch and snatched it. "Yeah?"

<Hey Faith,>

"Soul boy! What's the what?" Faith brightened immediately. Angel might be over 200 years old and predominantly moody but he was on her side.

<We've just completed some research on the artefacts. Can you describe the one you've got?> Angel jumped straight in. Faith frowned slightly. She could smell trouble brewing.

"Hang on a sec, I'll just go and get it," she told him. The brunette woman moved into the kitchen and rummaged around in the pockets of her leather jacket that she had thrown over a chair. She had managed to spread the few belongings she possessed all over the ground floor of Angel's mansion. "It's the same as the other one, only it's not made of gold," she continued after retrieving the artefact. "It's some sort of green stone. Jade maybe?" Faith suggested hesitantly.

<Jade definitely,> confirmed Angel. <There's another one of those statuettes out there somewhere Faith, so keep your eyes open. And be careful too. They'll want it back.>

"They? What the hell is going on big guy?" Faith was confused and nervous now. Angel's tone when he warned her to be careful was definitely on the more serious side.

<I'll tell you everything when we get there.>

"You're coming here? When?" Faith couldn't help but smile, until she had a nasty afterthought. "I haven't gotta stick around here by myself for a few days have I?"

<No, we'll be there tomorrow. Just keep your guard up for tonight.>

Faith frowned. "Don't worry soul boy, I can look after myself," she reassured him. They exchanged goodbyes and hung up. Faith threw the phone onto the kitchen work top and then sat down to examine the artefact closely. It was a solid piece of jade, about 30 centimetres tall in the shape of a rotund man. It reminded Faith of the Buddha statues she'd seen in various shops but she'd never seen a Buddha that was standing before. Or one with such a fierce expression carved on it's face. It felt heavy too. Almost too heavy for it's size. On the base were tiny runic inscriptions that meant nothing to Faith. Perhaps Giles might have some info. The young slayer curled her lip at the thought of meeting Buffy's friends again, yet she knew it would be inevitable. For Angel to return to Sunnydale and expect her to remain here could only mean that there was a massive threat to be dealt with - one that could not be dealt with by Buffy and the scoobs alone.

She ran a hand through her thick black mane absently as she brooded over what she knew. When her butt started complaining about the inactivity, she shifted, yawning in the process. The ride from LA and her subsequent fight had taken it's toll. Deciding that the safest place for the statuette was on her person, she tucked the jade object back into her jacket and returned to the couch. Snuggling down with the coat thrown over the top of her body she decided to rest her eyes for ten minutes.

Faith rolled off the couch and was on the balls of her feet in a crouched fighting stance before she was aware of what woke her up. Consequently, the demon's punch swiped at empty air before landing amongst the couch cushions.

Even as it turned to attack Faith, the young slayer whipped round in a vicious leg swipe that floored the thing. Before it had time to recover, she yanked the knife from its nestling place inside her right boot and skewered the demon, ending the fight before it had really started.

Until the second demon attacked her from behind. Fortunately, her slayer instinct saved her again and she managed to turn a potentially fatal blow to her head into a glancing one as she leapt to one side. It still hurt like hell and made her ears ring. Faith shook her head in an effort to clear it but succeeded in making herself feel more nauseous. After that, she didn't know how she felt because her only instinct was survival as she traded blows with her attacker. Using her size and speed to her advantage, Faith sprinted to Angel's weapons room, hoping that the vampire had left something for her to use. Unfortunately it was locked and as Faith raised a leg in an effort to kick the door down, she found herself slammed against it instead. She grunted and realised that she must have bitten her lip as she tasted a familiar salty iron tang in her mouth. The small slayer spun round, leaving her elbow raised and heard a satisfying crunch as it connected with the demon's face. It didn't slow the thing down though and Faith felt herself flying back across the room as the demon yanked her arm. Determined not to lose her focus through rage, Faith stood up carefully and awaited the next attack, her eyes darting everywhere in an effort to find anything that could be of use to her. The demon wasted no time in closing the distance between them. It swung wildly at her, hoping to connect a heavy blow and down the lithe woman but Faith kept out of the way, dancing round the thing and waiting for an opening. When the demon produced a large curved knife, the slayer knew she was in real trouble. Suddenly, she saw something that could be of use to her and without making it too obvious, she manoeuvred the demon towards the fireplace.

Her attacker was similar to the one from the cemetery, but not as large. Unfortunately, this made him quicker and he surprised Faith with a snake like strike with his knife. She body swerved instinctively but winced as she felt the knife slice across the side of her abdomen. Her side became slick and hot as blood flowed freely from the wound. Faith dropped her shoulder and rolled across the floor, getting to her feet right by the fireplace. The demon was on her in an instant but the rogue slayer snatched the poking iron from beside the fireplace and whipped it across the thing's head, bending it with the ferocity of the blow. Faith almost dropped the implement as the violent shock waves shuddered up her arm, but instead she adjusted her grip slightly as the demon staggered and imbedded the black iron poker deep into the guts of her foe. It hissed angrily as it folded onto the floor before melting across the carpet.

Faith yanked the poker from it's resting place inside the melting demon's guts and then searched the mansion cautiously. She kicked herself at her own stupidity when she realised that she had left the back door open after depositing her bike in the yard. At least she now knew how they got in without disturbing her. After carefully securing the property, Faith then tended her own wounds. The incision to her abdomen was not too deep but very sore. Locating a stash of first aid equipment, she bound the wound tightly, hoping that her slayer powers would do the rest. The blow to her head had produced an egg sized lump that would disappear by morning along with the fat lip.

Finally, after checking her jacket and confirming that the artefact was still tucked into a pocket, Faith returned to the couch and folded herself into the corner, knowing even as she sat there, that sleep would remain elusive for the rest of the night.

Buffy marched purposefully up to the mansion and knocked loudly on the door before trying to push it open. Realising that it was locked, she put her hands on her hips and waited impatiently. She raised a clenched fist to pound the door once more when she heard several clicks of locks and bolts being manipulated. The door was opened fractionally and she peered into bloodshot brown eyes as Faith looked out at her.

"Hey B, come in," Faith swung the door open and moved back into the mansion before Buffy had the opportunity to say anything.

The blonde slayer started talking even as she entered. "Faith, this isn't a social call. Angel rang last night and wants a meet..." She trailed off when she saw the remains of the two demons still soaking into the carpets. "Hmm, I think you're gonna need a professional stain remover."

"Don't ya just hate it when they leave a mess," Faith returned as she turned round to face Buffy.

"What happened?" Buffy put aside her contempt for the rogue slayer, noticing the dried bloodstain on Faith's T-shirt and the bandaging around her abdomen.

"I was stupid. Fell asleep and they jumped me. One of the fuckers had a knife." Faith slumped into the couch. Her side hurt but it wasn't as painful as before and she knew that her face had healed.

"You Okay?" Buffy stepped closer involuntarily. She might hate Faith but if anyone was going to kick her ass it should be Buffy, not some popsicle demon.

The brunette slayer smiled humourlessly at Buffy. "Five by five, B. Didn't know you cared."

"I don't," responded Buffy instantly. "Damn, these guys mean business. You still got the artefact?"

"Yep. It might be an idea if Giles takes a look at it," she suggested nervously.

Buffy looked at the rogue slayer. "Definitely." Suddenly, she remembered why she had come to the mansion in the first place. "Giles has a magic shop now. We're meeting there at 4 p.m. Unfortunately, Angel wants you there too, so don't be late and don't forget to bring the artefact."

Faith rolled her eyes at Buffy's tone but just nodded. She was too tired to enter into a verbal sparring match with the older slayer.

The lack of come back surprised Buffy. It wasn't like Faith at all to just take an order like that.

"Buffy I gotta go into town and get some stuff for my bike and some stuff for the fridge." Faith shuddered at the thought of going grocery shopping but she knew that Wes would never forgive her if she didn't have tea and milk in.

"And you're telling me because...?" Buffy trailed the question off, shrugging her shoulders as she posed it.

"Because I didn't want you going all freaky and hunting me down, thinking I was on the rampage or something," returned Faith quietly. "Wouldn't want to upset the chosen *one* now, would I?" She couldn't help the tinge of bitterness that crept into her intonation as she muttered the last sentence.

Buffy shook her head dismissively but inside she was reeling. Faith had never before considered anyone's point of view but her own. Determinedly, she clamped down on her thoughts. "Fine. Do what you want, but if I hear about any trouble whatsoever..."

"Yeah, yeah, I get it." Faith was furious with herself for instantly erecting her old barriers but she just couldn't help it. Buffy got under her skin and she just didn't know how else to handle the situation. She needed time. Time to adjust to being here with Buffy and all the others, and they needed time to get used to her being here. Unfortunately, now that there was a new threat to the Hellmouth, time was one luxury none of them had. "The magic shop got a phone number, B?" Faith asked suddenly.

"Yeah, why?" The blonde slayer looked at Faith suspiciously.

"In case I can't find it. You haven't exactly been forward with directions, you know."

"Sunnydale isn't a big place, Faith," retorted the older woman sharply, but she walked into the kitchen and found a pencil and a scrap of paper. She scribbled the number down hastily before returning to the doorway. "It's on the table. See you at 4." With that, she let herself out of the mansion, slamming the door shut behind her.

Part Three

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