by Steph L.

The training session was boring all the potentials, Buffy knew. Their punches and kicks were rote at best, and half-hearted on Vi's part. She turned her back to hide her scowl of frustration. How to motivate them? If she sent them into a cemetery alone, the first group of vampires that came along would drain the girls before they could even scream.

Without turning, Buffy said, "Half of you will be dead by next week."

The girls stopped. "Wh...what?" Vi dropped the stake she was holding, her face turning ashen.

"I mean it." Buffy faced them, her mouth set in a thin line. "I know this training is boring, doing the same thing day after day. But it's something you have to do. If I sent you on patrol alone every night this week, only half of you would be standing here in seven days.

"You're not ready to patrol. You're not ready to fight. But you can be. These drills are the types of moves you'll need against vamps and demons. And I promise you, if you put some effort into it, you'll get ready.

"Now." She put her hands on her hips, trying to make the same stern expression Giles always had when she wanted to skip training to go to the mall with Willow. "Start over. Do it hard. Do it right."

The girls began sparring again, throwing and blocking punches, dodging and kicking. Kennedy and Rona squared off in the corner, circling each other, looking for an opening. Rona's sudden right hook sent Kennedy flying across the length of the basement.

Everyone froze.

"Rona, how did you do that?" Vi's eyes were wide with awe.

"I...I didn't do anything! We were just training, like we always did...Oh my God, did I hurt you?" Rona ran over to Kennedy, who was lying on her back, dazed.

"No, I'm okay...I think. Nothing's broken." Kennedy's eyes focused on Rona. "How did you do that?"

Buffy hurried to Kennedy's side, checking for injuries. "She seems fine, you guys. Let's take a break, okay? Everybody head upstairs."

Rona and Molly helped Kennedy to her feet, Rona apologizing repeatedly, while Vi wondered again about Rona's inexplicably increased strength and speed.

Except it wasn't inexplicable to Buffy. She knew that power intimately, sharing body and soul and breath with it for seven years. She didn't need a seer's vision to confirm what she knew in an instant, the moment Rona's punch connected. But Buffy knew the others would need more confirmation than just the quickening in her veins at Rona's irrevocably altered nature, so she followed the girls upstairs to ask Willow to call the coven's seer.


It is certain, the seer had said, a new Slayer has been called from among you. Your next moves will determine the fate of the final battle, so proceed cautiously. Rona leaned against the doorframe during the phone call, the same girl who had arrived in Sunnydale two months earlier - baggy overalls, no-nonsense attitude with a willingness to learn - but with a subtle difference. A new awareness in her eyes, a slightly surer gait.

"But here's the thing," Rona asked, "how can I be the Slayer when Buffy didn't die? She's standing right here, looking pretty healthy." Buffy paced the length of the living room as the potentials looked to her to allay their confusion. Most looked relieved at not being chosen, although Vi looked panic-stricken and Kennedy appeared stoic and distant, her shoulders twisted away from Willow.

"Maybe she's a manifestation of the First," Andrew suggested, shrinking back when Buffy glared at him. "Well, we don't know - somebody touch her to be sure!" Buffy scowled, but Xander grabbed her elbow as she walked past him.

"Yup. Genuine Bufster," Xander said.

Kennedy spoke up. "So how did this happen? Is it a mistake?"

Buffy, Willow, and Xander were silent for a moment. Then Willow said, "No. It's no mistake."

When Willow didn't say anything further, Kennedy asked, "Care to enlighten us?"

"There was another Slayer - Faith," said Buffy.

"I knew it!" Vi whispered to Molly.

"There have been two Slayers for a while now - for almost as long as I've been the Slayer," Buffy continued. "When I first moved to Sunnydale, I...died in a fight." Rona raised her eyebrows questioningly. "For just a few minutes," Buffy hastened to add. "I drowned, and Xander saved me. But those few minutes were enough to call another Slayer, even though I came back. And ever since then, there have been two least while I've been alive."

"So much for 'one girl in all the world,' " Kennedy said.

"So then, for Rona to be called while you're still here," Molly started.

"...that means Faith died," Xander finished, scowling at the floor.

"Why didn't you tell us about this other Slayer before? She could have helped us when we fought the Turok-Han," Kennedy said.

"Because she was in jail," Buffy replied.

"J...jail?" Vi looked perplexed.

"Yes, sometimes Slayers do bad things," Xander said, as though explaining to a child.

"Faith was a rogue Slayer," Buffy explained. "A Slayer who decided that she'd use her powers to do whatever she wanted, and not work with the Council."

"Didn't you stop working for the Council?" Molly asked.

Buffy stopped pacing, her ponytail still swinging. "Okay, you girls know too much. The point is, Faith went bad. And eventually she went to jail for it. But the last I knew, she was still serving time. Not...that we kept in touch, or anything."

"She must have died in jail," Willow said. "I wonder what happened."

"Me, too. There's no way she could lose a fight," Xander said. "Not with her strength. There's no way she'd be anybody's bi..."

"It doesn't really matter how it happened," Buffy said quickly. "The important thing is, it did. And if we know, you can bet the First knows, too." Rona's expression changed from curious to worried. "So we have to prepare for that. It's going to come after you, Rona, but it's also not going to let up on the rest of you. You're all still potential Slayers, and - I'm sorry, but I have to be honest - if Rona is killed, one of you will be called." Buffy looked each girl in the eye. "We have to keep training. So, why don't you all head back downstairs. Rona, be a little careful with the others until you have a better feel for your strength. I'll be down in a minute."

Alone in the living room, Buffy, Willow, and Xander sat silently for a moment. Then Willow spoke. "What do you think happened? May...maybe a prison riot? Or...she could have choked on a chicken bone."

"A chicken bone?" Xander looked frustrated. "She's the Slayer, Will, not my grandma."

"People choke, Xander, it's a normal thing...okay, maybe not normal, but happens, okay? And it could have happened to her."

Xander didn't appear to really be listening to Willow. "I just...why didn't we know? I mean, why didn't we keep better tabs on her? We should have, that would have been the smart thing to do, right?" He looked to Buffy.

"I don't know, Xander. I guess we just forgot about her - I mean, I know I did. I thought she'd be in jail, and out of our lives, forever." She paused. "And, you know, I don't have time to feel sad. Not right now. Maybe another time, I would have been. Another Big Bad, one with some kind of weakness we can fight. But right now, I have girls in the basement to train, and a new Slayer who needs to learn how to use her strength. And you guys need to keep researching."

"We will, Buffy," Willow said. "Just...I didn't expect to feel sad about Faith."

"Will," Buffy said without looking back as she walked to the basement door, "you don't have time either. You can be sad when we defeat the First."


Two days later, Faith showed up on the Summers' front porch. Vi answered the door, peering curiously at her from under a floppy, garishly striped hat. "Hi. Can I help you?"

"Uh, yeah..." Faith looked around for a minute, checking the address. "This is Buffy Summers' house, right?"

" you know her?"

"Oh, yeah. I'm an old friend of hers. I just came up from L.A., because I have some information that I think could help her." Faith smiled, although the gesture didn't reach the steely look in her eyes.

"You mean against the First?" Vi's eyes were wide and hopeful.

" bet." Faith looked past Vi into the house. "Is Buffy home?"

"Yeah, she is. Come on in, and I'll get her."

"Thanks, umm...?" Faith trailed off, looking quizzically at Vi.

"Oh, I'm Vi! I'm staying here now, while..."

Vi was cut off as Dawn came around the corner asking, "Hey, who's at the door?" Dawn, stopped short, gaping in astonishment at the sight of Faith standing in the doorway, the full moon visible over her shoulder. Then Dawn screamed, backing away quickly. The others came running.

"Dawn, what is it? A Bringer?" Buffy grabbed Dawn's arm, quickly checking to see if she was hurt and then scanning the front hall intently. She stared at Faith in shock.

Xander was right on Buffy's heels, followed by Willow. "Dawnie, are you okay?" Xander held a thick book aloft, brandishing it like an axe. As he caught sight of Faith, he jumped back. "Ngyah!"

"Hey, B, Xander, Willow." Faith attempted a genuine smile. She looked pale, and older than anyone remembered. But then, they were all older. "Look, I...I know you weren't expecting me, but..." Faith took in the looks of shock and horror on everyone's faces. "What?"

"You''re dead! I mean, supposed to be. Well, because, there's a new Slayer and everything, which means you died, but you're here, and..." Xander gestured wildly with the book until Willow stepped up and took it away from him.

"Um, really not dead. Because, check me out. Here I am."

"But there really was a new Slayer called. You have to be dead," Dawn said, trembling.

"Look, I think I know why you're all freaking out. I don't expect you to welcome me with open arms, but you're going to want to hear what I have to say. Okay?"

Buffy didn't answer for a moment, assessing Faith carefully. After a minute had passed, she said "At this point, there probably is a perfectly Hellmouthy explanation for this. Fine. Let's go in the living room."

"Thanks, B." Faith followed Buffy, halting at the sight of the potentials gathered around the doorway, trying to hear the conversation in the hall. "Ummm...I just left a women's prison - what's with all the girls?" Faith looked pointedly at Willow, who responded with a glare of her own.

"Yeah, these are," Buffy gestured, "these are potential Slayers." Rona cleared her throat loudly. "Except her. She's the new Slayer. She was called two days ago, and she's got the strength and the speed, and a seer confirmed it. Which brings me back to the question of how are you here and alive if another Slayer got called?"

Faith walked into the living room, scrutinizing the potentials, and Rona in particular. She flopped down in an overstuffed chair, dangling one booted foot over an arm. "I don't know what you heard, B, but I'm walking around. Doesn't the fact that I'm sitting here mean anything?"

"Maybe she's just a projection of the First," Molly said.

"I'll grab her," Andrew volunteered, already standing as close to Faith's chair as he could without actually sitting on the arm.

"What? What are you talking about?" Faith looked confused. "And any part of you that touches me is getting ripped off your body." She pointed at Andrew.

"The Big Bad we're fighting - it's the First Evil," Buffy explained.

"That thing that tried to kill Angel at Christmas when I was here?"

"Wow - good memory," Buffy said. "Well, it can't take physical form, and so it appears as kind of a hologram thing in the form of people who are dead, or have died but are still, like me."

"I'm solid, B," Faith said. "Check it out." She stretched her leg and kicked Andrew in the ribs, causing him to yelp and jump back. "See?"

"Yeah, she's real," Andrew said, rubbing his side and glaring at Faith. "And mean," he muttered under his breath. Faith smiled a fuck-you smile at him.

"Okay, not the First. But what happened to you? Why do we have another Slayer?" Buffy was growing impatient.

"There was a riot in prison, and - I'm not too clear on what happened, but one minute I was fighting and then I woke up in the infirmary. The doc said they had to re-start my heart."

"So you died like Buffy did? And then came back, and that's why there's another Slayer?" Dawn asked.

"Guess so."

"Of course!" Willow seemed chagrined that she hadn't figured it out sooner.

"Then how did you get out of prison? Were you paroled?" Xander leaned forward, curiosity replacing his initial shock.

"For Murder 2? Not likely!" Faith smirked. "It was just convenient to bust out, when things went permanently dark." At the looks of confusion, Faith asked, "Don't you guys know what's going on in L.A.? Some crazy shit is happening. There's a demon that blotted out the sun for a while, through some badass magic, and the vamps and demons were running all over the place. And the prison got crazy, so I busted out."

Buffy, Willow, and Xander spoke at once.

"Is Angel okay?"

"Oh my God!"

"What the hell?"

"He's okay, B.," Faith answered. "I mean, he's involved in it, but he's okay. When I busted out, I went to his place, looking to help."

"" Xander asked?

"Yeah, it was really crazy, with the sun all dark and the demons running wild, and I thought Angel could use my help. I owed it to him." At the continued looks of confusion, she added, "Look, Angel kept in touch with me while I was in prison, and he' guys don't really keep in touch, do you?"

"Not really," Buffy said.

Faith smiled.

Rona interrupted. "Look, this is good, right? Three Slayers? We might really have a chance against the First, with three of us."

"Yeah, if two Slayers are good, three have to be better, right?" Xander asked, hastily adding, "I didn't even mean that in a dirty way, I swear!"

"Buffy?" Willow looked at her, trying to gauge her reaction.

"Yeah," Buffy answered slowly, looking away for a moment as she thought. "That could be what we need. Nothing else has worked so far, and we're out of ideas. Yes." She snapped out of her reverie, focusing on Faith once again.

"Faith, look. I know we've had differences in the past." Buffy paused. "Okay, we've tried to kill each other in the past. But what we're in the middle of right now is big, and scary, and it's not going to stand by while we fight over things that happened a long time ago. Now, we can really use your help. It might make the difference we need to defeat the First. But only if we put aside what happened between us and work together. Can you do that?"

"That's why I'm here, Buffy," Faith said. "I'm not here to fight you. That's over. That green demon guy who works with Angel can read minds, or see the future, or something. He said I needed to come here. So I'm here. Whatever you need, I'm your girl."

Faith stood, extending her arm, hand out, to Buffy. "Okay?"

Buffy took it. "Okay."

Without warning, Faith pulled Buffy to her with preternatural speed. Her eyes flashed golden as ridges distorted her once-familiar face. Before anyone could react, Faith tore into Buffy's jugular vein.


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