Chapter One

For most people, there are things in life that go without saying. Never wear white after Labor Day. Bring to a boil and stir. Turn your clocks back or forward for Daylight Savings. Save the world – a lot – and take a nice long break from evilness and heroics.

You know. Simple things.

But Willow wasn't like most people, and when she called an emergency meeting of the Sunnydale gang three months after they'd closed the Hellmouth, they knew that the honeymoon was over.

Most of the gang resided in Cleveland now, save for Giles who was busy building a new and improved Watcher's Council in England. He had encouraged everyone to go to Cleveland, seeing as that it had a Hellmouth that needed protecting and they were used to being the protectors.

Even though it was still work, it was much less intense than Sunnydale had ever been. After word spread around Cleveland that the slayer and her friends --who had fought the apocalypse in Sunnydale – were in town, demonic activity slowed to a near stop. Nothing left that a few nightly patrols per week couldn't take care of.

Buffy, for the most part, was content with her new life. She and Dawn lived in a small two-family home which was within walking distance of both Willow and Kennedy's apartment and Xander's fixer-upper house. Dawn was back in school, as was Buffy who was taking a few night courses per week while working at a local café.

Being a barista girl had never been her dream job, but it helped to maintain the bills that her small stipend from the Watcher's Council didn't cover.

In an unlikely series of events, Faith ended up renting the other half of Buffy and Dawn's house. Sure she was surprised when the gang had expected her to tag along with them rather than take a trip back to prison, but she was even more surprised when Buffy had told her about the newly available living quarters.

"Dawnie and I love it here. There's a back porch that has a perfect view of the sunset, and a nice big tree for taking little naps under on those deliciously lazy days when I'm ignoring phone calls from Giles, Willow, and work," Buffy had told her.

"Sounds great. Too bad I didn't hear about the place before you did," Faith responded with a small grin, "I woulda stole it right out from under those little things you call feet."

"You would've deprived us of our back-porch sitting? And the naps?" Buffy asked, feigning hurt.

"In a minute," Faith answered jokingly. "I'm picky ‘bout where I live, B. No more hotels, no more prison cells. That means I wouldn't mind stepping on the occasional toe and biting or pulling hair to get the perfect place."

"Hmm. That almost makes me reluctant to tell you that our neighbor is moving out in two weeks and our landlord is looking for a new tenant," Buffy had answered back easily, wearing a grin that matched Faith's.

"Almost?" Faith asked before taking a long swig on her bottle of Pepsi.

Buffy chuckled and reached into her pocket, pulling out a small piece of paper. She handed it over to Faith, still grinning.

"I already told him you'd be interested in the place. He's expecting your call."

Faith smiled as she looked at the small scrap of paper. "Thanks, B. Yunno, you're actually a pretty decent chick when you're not busy tryin to beat the hell outta me."

"Does that mean you'll not try to kill me anytime soon? Cos I've got an appointment to get my hair cut at this great salon and they'll be really upset if I'm late due to hospital visits or unplanned death," Buffy said, tongue-in cheek.

"Nah," Faith said easily. "I think you're safe for a while. Your good deed bought you a few months of guaranteed no kill-age."

And that was pretty much how it all ended up. Or how it all began. Faith moved in two and a half weeks later. She spent lots of time with Dawn, who thought it was great to finally have a friend of her own that wasn't dedicated to Buffy over herself. Buffy spent much of her free time becoming reacquainted with Willow and Xander, catching up on time with them that was lost over the anarchy of the previous few years.

Buffy alternated nightly patrols with Kennedy and Faith, this way each of them got a couple of nights off each week. Most of the time, however, Buffy and/or Dawn ended tagging along on Faith's patrol nights and vice versa, as the three of them had developed a bond in living so close to one another.

While Buffy was waking up at the crack of dawn to get ready for work, Faith was usually just walking in the door from her night shift at a local bar, The Bradford. Instead of going into her own house, Faith would always sit and have a cup of coffee with Buffy, despite the fact that she'd be going to sleep soon after Buffy left. The caffeine didn't bother her. She was just happy to finally have . . . friends.

By the time that Buffy finished her eight hour shift, she'd come home to find Faith and Dawn playing Grand Theft Auto, sprawled across her living room floor.

"With as much time as you spend here, you should just move in," Buffy joked with Faith on a daily basis.

"Nah, separate living space is the way to go, B. Makes you miss me more when I leave."

"Speaking of leaving," Buffy would say as she'd hold the front door open and would stare at Faith.

Faith would get up from the floor without incident, except for Dawn's whines that she could do her homework later, and walk past Buffy and through the door with a grin on her face.

"Don't worry, B, I get it. You want me to leave just so you can start missin' me. I'm onto your game."

"Later," Buffy would reply, a smile on her face.

"Yep," was Faith's answer, knowing fully well that they definitely would see one another later. Between watching the sun set with Buffy and Dawn, group patrolling, and late night movie marathons, they were pretty much always together. Later would always come, and Faith always looked forward to it.

Buffy, Dawn, and Faith got to spend even more time together, including a somewhat reluctant Kennedy, when Willow was called off to Los Angeles to help Angel out with a few things. No one liked that he was working for Wolfram & Hart, but they knew that he wouldn't get into something that he couldn't handle.

They just hoped that the power wouldn't corrupt him as it had so many people before him.

A month or so prior to Willow's trip, they had found out that Spike had come back in a slightly less than corporeal form. At first they were concerned that it was The First acting up again, but a few spells by the Coven in England proved that it really was Spike, and that he really was a ghost for some unforeseen reason. He wasn't supposed to be a ghost. Something had gone wrong when the Powers That Be brought him back.

Or at least that's what Willow was busy trying to explain as the gang sat around Xander's living room with Giles keyed in on speakerphone.

"What do you mean he's not supposed to be a ghost?" Buffy asked, her arms crossed over her chest. "He certainly can't be fleshy. I pretty much witnessed the blazing finale."

"Well, as helpful as he was in closing the Hellmouth, that wasn't Spike's destiny," Willow explained. "Angel was supposed to wear the amulet. It should have been Angel that died wearing it."

"That shouldn't matter though," Buffy continued. "He did wear it, and he did die. His being ghostly now shouldn't pose big enough a risk to call in the troops."

"That's where you're incorrect, Buffy," Giles chimed in over the speakerphone. "Surely under any other circumstances, it wouldn't have mattered. However, there is a prophecy . . ."

"There's always a prophecy," Buffy interrupted, rolling her eyes.

"Does anyone else feel like we're in a scene from Charlie's Angels?" Xander quipped.

"Perhaps," Giles continued in response to Buffy's interruption, "but this prophecy should have been obsolete. We've changed the future enough times to render it useless. However, when Angel gave the amulet to Spike, he returned to Los Angeles and took over Wolfram & Hart. The Powers That Be recognized this as a loss of another champion, one to death -- Spike, and one to the forces of evil -- Angel."

"Hey," Faith cut in, "big A knows what he's doing. Just cos he's the big guy at Wolfram & Hart doesn't mean he's the next big bad. He's using his resources to do good." She couldn't help but defend Angel. He was one of the few people that had always been there for her.

"True," Giles responded. "But in accepting such power, he has lost his status as a champion of good in the eyes of the Powers That Be. Wolfram & Hart continues to grow exponentially as an evil entity, despite the good that Angel is trying to do. At the rate in which its power grows, it's only a matter of time before there's another showdown between good and evil. Another epic battle. The Powers are merely trying to establish that when and if such a time arrives, they have their champion at hand."

"And that's where Spike comes in," Xander stated rather than asked.

"Correct," Giles responded. "He was supposed to come back, unscathed. Ready to fight -- and die -- for the cause of the greater good."

"'Cept he can't really make with the big damage if he's busy falling through floors and walking through walls," Faith added from her place behind Buffy, her position a small sign of solidarity and support. "Also correct," Giles responded.

"Which is where I come in," Willow said with a nervous smile. "I've been in contact with the coven, which has passed on some magicks and spells to restore Spike's corporeal form. All we need is a few items and ingredients and I should be able to whip up a body for him in a jiff."

"You sure about that, Wills?" Xander asked, taking a few steps closer to his friend. "Remember back when I got you that Easy Bake Oven? You had all the ingredients and the manual and everything laid out for you and I was still sick for a week after eating that fudge."

"It was cake," Willow said shyly, defending her cooking. "Besides, magic is different from cooking. Magic I can do, especially under the guidance of the coven."

"So, why the meeting then?" Buffy asked, convinced that there had to be something more to it if an emergency meeting of the Scooby gang had been called.

"The spell will be a piece of cake," Willow began and glared when it looked like Xander might bring up the Easy Bake Oven incident again. "It's the ingredients and items needed for the spell which is the difficult part."

"So hop on your broomstick and take a ride over to Hogwarts or something, Red. You've never had a problem with getting the goodies before," Faith commented, her arms crossed over her chest.

"If it was that simple, I would've taken care of everything while I was in LA instead of coming back here and getting everyone else involved," Willow responded. "I can get the stinky herbs and roots, but I'm lacking the vessel in which the ingredients need to be burned. I need the Urn of Osiris."

"The Urn of Osiris?" Xander chirped in, his voice an octave higher than normal. "The same Urn of Osiris that was destroyed when we brought Buffy back?"

"The one and only," Willow answered, looking guiltily over at Buffy.

"I see two problems here," Dawn said from her place on the floor. "One – That one and only urn? We kinda killed it. And two -- That one and only Sunnydale? We kinda killed it, too."

"Actually, Dawn, that's incorrect," Giles chimed in.

"Actually, Giles, you're incorrect," Dawn answered back, her eyebrows raised. "I have ALWAYS wanted to tell him he was wrong!" She gushed, looking over to Xander who wore a proud smile. "I watched them both go kablooey."

"For all intents and purposes, you're correct," Giles said. "The urn was destroyed, and Sunnydale is indeed gone as well. But Willow has found a way to obtain the urn, which is where Buffy and Faith come in."

"Is it time travel?" Xander asked excitedly. "Are they gonna go back in time to the night Buffy was resurrected and swoop in and save the urn? Cause not only would that be really convenient, but also pretty darn cool."

"I actually thought about that. The going back in time, I mean," Willow said excitedly. "If I could go back to Sunnydale before it got all implode-y, I could use a spell to conjure up a new urn. So long as the remains of the existing urn were there, I could've just done the spell, made a new one, and been back here before you could say hootenanny."

"But the remains were destroyed, along with everything else," Buffy said rather than asked.

"Yep, pretty much." Willow said, deflating just a bit.

"So then what's the big plan?" Faith asked as she moved around the couch and plopped down next to Buffy. "Cos really? – not feeling big with the warm and fuzzy at the thought of rappelling into a big crater and fishing around for dust in a dust stack."

"Most of us know of or have had encounters with other dimensions. I don't need to get into the mechanics of it, right? Cos it's actually pretty nifty," Willow said, looking around the room from person to person to see if anyone looked interested. Seeing nothing but glares, she continued. "Right, we'll skip the physics lesson. Basically, there are countless other dimensions out there. We all exist in them in some form or another. There are infinite possibilities of who we are and how we live, but it doesn't change the fact that there is a Buffy Summers in every dimension, and a Sunnydale in every dimension . . ."

". . . and an Urn of Osiris in every dimension," Buffy finished for her.

"Right," Willow said with a nod. "The plan is simple in its basic form: I conjure up an orb that will let the both of you travel between dimensions. You go to a dimension that's similar to ours -- you know, where there's a Sunnydale that isn't overrun by demons or squirrels – you find the Urn, and you bring it back."

"If it's that simple, why can't just one of us go?" Faith asked, her brows slightly furrowed.

It was Giles' turn to speak up again.

"There is no way for us to properly research which dimension you'll be traveling to. Unfortunately, we'll be sending you into the situation completely blind. Willow can pinpoint the Sunnydale location and send you to the general vicinity, but we won't know what you'll find when you get there. In the event that you get there and are faced with a corrupted and dark Sunnydale, you'll stand a better chance of being successful if you go together."

"You hear that B?" Faith said, taking a glance over at Buffy. "Things get hairy and you get to play bait while I make a run for the money."

Buffy couldn't help but grin a little at Faith's words.

"Please," she said. "You are SO the bait. Besides, I run faster."

"I'm gonna ignore that comment about the running for now seeing as that I probably would make better bait. No one can resist this," Faith said with a grin as she indicated her body.

Xander couldn't resist the opportunity to jump into the conversation.

"Would you say that you're the master bait?" He quipped, but suddenly shrank back in his chair at the glares he received. "I'm just gonna be quiet now."

"Thank you," Giles said, his slight grimace at Xander's bad joke almost audible over the speakerphone.

"When would all of this go down?" Buffy asked, getting back to the matter at hand. As much as she appreciated their ability to keep things lighthearted, she knew that she'd rather get things taken care of quickly so that she could get back to her normal life. A life that no longer consisted of hopping through portals and stealing magical artifacts to save the world.

It was all a bit played out, at least as far as Buffy was concerned. Killing a couple of vamps a few nights per week almost made her think that her life was normal now. Or, at least as normal as it was ever gonna get.

Surely inter-dimensional travel put a small kink in her quasi-normal life.

"We can do it whenever you and Faith are ready, though the Powers seem to be itching to have their champion back as quickly as possible," Willow answered. "They can get a bit cranky when things don't go their way."

"Right," Buffy said, fully in business mode again. "Then I say we get a jump on this and get the Powers what they need so we can get back to our new and improved and slightly less slay-ey lives. Giles, any chance you'll be making a cameo in this fun-fest?"

"I wish I could be there, at least for old time's sake," he answered softly. "Unfortunately, I have some pressing matters here in England that must be tended to. However, I have complete faith in Willow's ability to get both you and Faith there and back unscathed. You'll let me know things went well upon your return?"

"You betcha, G," Faith said with a smile. "Anything we can get for ya while we're there? A tweed suit that you were particularly fond of, or a book or somethin?"

Giles paused for a few moments, choosing his words carefully.

"Just be careful, girls, and come home safe."

A moment later the line clicked off and Xander reached over to turn off the speaker.

"How long is the prep time gonna take for this, Wills?" Buffy asked as she stood and stretched her tired muscles.

"I just need to stop by the garden shop in the morning and get some wormwood and acacia bark and I should be set to conjure the orb. Once I do that, we're good to go. I'd say maybe a day, two tops."

"Great," Buffy said. "Just tell me when and where and I'll be there." Something occurred to her then. She turned to Faith, "Hey . . . are you onboard with this? I'm sure that Kennedy could fill in if you don't want to or if you're busy or anything . . ."

Faith took that opportunity to stand as well, pondering Buffy's words.

"I'm five by five, B. Always said I'd like to travel, see the world. Parallel dimensions gotta count, right?"

Buffy smiled, happy that Faith would be joining her. "They've gotta count for something."

A day and a half later, Willow, Buffy and Faith were stood in Buffy's kitchen going over the general plan.

"Plan? I thought you said it was simple," Faith said. "Use the orb to get where you tell us to go, find the Urn, and come on home. Is the last-minute meeting really necessary?"

"There are a few details that we should touch upon, yes," Willow said, hedging around the particulars.

"Willow?" Buffy asked slowly, studying Willow's face. "You have guilty face. Why do you have guilty face?"

"There are a couple of things I may have failed to mention," Willow said shyly. "Just . . . little things, really."

"What kind of little things?" Faith asked, looking rather menacing.

"Well, like . . . if you break or lose the orb, there's a chance that you'll be stuck there. Like, forever stuck there." She looked anxiously between Buffy and Faith who stared at one another.

Faith reached into her pocket and took out the orb, handing it over to Buffy.

"You carry it," she said, eyebrows raised.

"Gee, thanks," Buffy said dryly, easily pocketing the orb.

"And," Willow continued, earning a glare from both girls, "you can't run into your otherworldly selves. It would be bad. Catastrophic bad."

"What? Why?" Faith asked, looking worried. "You guys know me, I usually go looking for trouble. I mean, now that you told me not to, I won't, but I can't promise that the other me isn't gonna come looking for us. I'm not the brightest crayon in the box, no matter which dimension you find me in."

"You're just gonna have to be extra careful," Willow said cheerily. "It's one of the reasons why we're sending the both of you. One gets to play explorer while the other plays lookout."

"This sounds like it's gonna be great fun," Buffy said with a sigh.

"Everything will be fine, Buff," Willow said, laying a comforting hand on Buffy's arm. "Just . . . stay away from your other selves. If all else fails, just stay away from them."

Before Buffy or Faith could say or complain any more, Willow scurried out of the kitchen and into the living room where Kennedy, Dawn and Xander were waiting.

"Something tells me that we're in for some trouble," Faith said as she leaned back against the counter, her arms crossed over her chest.

"Yeah, well . . . what else is new," Buffy responded as she copied Faith's position next to her. "You sure you're up for this? We can always back out, let the Powers pick someone else."

Faith thought about it for a few moments. True, she was enjoying their low-key life now. She didn't want to get stuck in some other dimension, and she was pretty sure that she didn't want to know what would happen if they ran into their other selves. Still, they were slayers. They had been chosen to do good; to save the world, no matter how many times they had done so before.

"I think we've gotta do it, B. Besides . . . maybe if we get it right, Giles will let us use some Council funds to take a trip or something. Some sun and fun after saving the world seems like an even exchange."

Buffy smiled and turned to face Faith, holding out her hand.

"Sounds like a plan. Let's shake on it: we save the world, we take a vacation."

Faith smiled back and took Buffy's hand, shaking it lightly.

"Deal. But I get to pick the place."

"Fair enough," Buffy said, smiling. Then she took a deep breath and exhaled loudly, finally letting go of Faith's hand. "You ready for this?"

Faith nodded her head as she stretched her limbs, readying them for whatever they would find once they went through the portal. "As I'll ever be."

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