Chapter Three

Buffy followed the hum of the slayer connection, not knowing where she was headed but only that it was in Faith's general direction. She could tell that much; the hum was getting stronger and stronger with each step she took. She was almost blown away by how strong the connection was now that she'd truly opened herself up to it. Had Faith felt this all along?

Soon she found herself wandering through the heart of Sunnydale. The shops and businesses were all pretty busy and would only get busier when the high school let the students out for the day. If she was going to find Faith, it was now or never.

Or, yunno . . . at least not until she could cut class again without too much grief.

Still, she was determined to find the girl today. She wasn't sure why the Slayery Powers had decided to show her Faith's untimely and gruesome demise, but she knew she had to do something about it. Of course, working without a time frame was a bit of an issue but she was still resolute in her desire to prevent it.

Her feet led her down a slightly less busy street with tall buildings lined up on either side of it. The feel of imaginary fingers caressing the back of her neck and spine let her know that she was close. Crazy close. And even if the slayer connection hadn't been there? The blaring Nine Inch Nails music from the building just off to her left was pretty much a dead giveaway.

If Faith was inside, no way could she sense Buffy. The music was way too loud to let her feel anything but temporarily deaf, probably.

Glancing around to make sure that she wasn't being watched, Buffy made her way to the door that led upstairs to the private residence. She took the stairs two at a time but slowly and cautiously, listening for any sign that Faith knew she was there. The music remained loud and obnoxious, just the way Faith liked it.

For a brief moment Buffy's mind flashed back to a time when she'd enjoyed the loud obnoxious music, her fingers entwined with Faith's as they'd danced the night away. It felt like a new beginning for them, but then things had gone so terribly wrong.

Finch's death had been an accident. Buffy knew that much. She believed that had they come right out and told Giles, they would have dealt with things as groups of friends do. Everything could have been fine. Damn Faith and her inability to trust, Buffy thought. And of course, that had led to the ultimate betrayal.

Would the Mayor have goons watching Faith's apartment? Were they in there with her right now? Between the loud music and the slayer connection, Buffy's senses were running amok and she had no idea if she was walking into some kind of horrible death trap. She paused at the door to the apartment, pondering for the first time if it had been a mistake seeking Faith out.

She didn't get to ponder it for too long though. Within a few moments of her standing there, the music stopped suddenly and she heard footsteps within the apartment.

"You gonna wait out there all day or are you gonna come in here so we can settle this once and for all?" came a voice from the other side of the door.

Faith's voice.

Steeling herself, Buffy took a deep breath and turned the door knob, unsurprised to find it unlocked. Faith had felt her all along and knew she was coming. Buffy stepped into the apartment and looked around, wondering where Faith had wandered off to. She left the door open behind her just in case she needed an easy escape route.

Buffy waited just on the inside of the doorway, not wanting to go any further into the apartment until she knew exactly how Faith was going to react to her presence. Clearly the girl thought they were about to fight; now to determine if it would be face to face or if Faith was going to try to catch her off guard.

And catch Buffy off guard she certainly did.

Faith came walking out from the bathroom wrapped only in a big black towel with her wet hair hanging over her shoulders. Drops of water cascaded down her chest and into the confines of the towel and when Buffy realized she was watching them fall, she quickly overcompensated and looked up at the ceiling.

"Damn. Look at you using those slayer senses. Pretty cool when you finally give in to the power, isn't it?" Seeing the unamused look on Buffy's face, Faith continued. "I realize it's about time we throw down and all but do ya think ya can give me ten minutes to get dressed, dry my hair? I'd at least like to leave a pretty corpse behind."

"I have no intention of killing you, despite the fact that I think you make some very stupid, stupid mistakes," Buffy said evenly, once again finding Faith's eyes.

"Maybe I'm not the one makin' mistakes. Maybe it wasn't my corpse I was talkin' about," Faith said slowly, inching closer and closer to Buffy.

"I'm not here to fight," Buffy said, trying to remain as unthreatening as possible despite the way the slayer within her was coiling up and readying to lash out.

"Yeah right. You just here to ogle my goodies then, B?"

Faith was getting closer and closer and Buffy tried her best to hold her ground but there was such a thing as too close, especially when dealing with a loose cannon like Faith. Unconsciously, she took a step backwards and she knew it was a big mistake. Faith noticed and grinned a little wider, a little crueler.

"People only ever come to see me for three reasons, B, the three F's: fighting, fun, or fucking. You ain't here to fight, or at least that's what you're tryin' to tell me. Pretty sure you ain't here to take me for a ride either cos – let's face facts here – you're a little too vanilla and hey, you blew that chance a long time ago. So how ‘bout we have us a little fun?"

"I'm not interested in any of your three F's, F," Buffy said, still taking steps back as Faith advanced. "I've got a different F for you: facts. I had a slayer dream, or at least I think that's what it was."

"Lucky you."

"I'm not sure I'd categorize it as lucky. I saw you die."

"Ah, so you are here to fight then. Damn, that was quick. Didn't think the Powers would take me outta the loop that fast. You really are their golden girl, B."

"That's bullshit and you know it," Buffy said angrily.

"What is?"

"All of it!" Buffy yelled. "I'm not here to fight, I'm not their golden girl, and you're the one who took yourself out of the loop! Do you think I want to be here, Faith? You're sleeping with the enemy yet here I am, trying to warn you or help you or . . . something!"

"Did I ask you for your help?" Faith asked, her voice dangerous and low as she continued approaching Buffy.

Buffy continued to step back, stopping when she felt her heels rest dangerously on the top of the stairs.

"No, but . . ."

"No but's. We're not friends, Buffy. You stay the fuck away from me and next time you plan on killin' me? Might not wanna give me a heads up. Crazy thing? I might not have much to live for but no way am I gonna lay down and die for a prissy little self-righteous bitch."

Buffy was going to reply, to yell back in anger, but the door slamming in her face and sending her down two stairs quickly stopped her. She tried the door knob again but it was locked. She banged on the door but suddenly the music started back up, drowning her completely out.

"Faith!" Buffy called and the music turned up even louder. "Faith! Listen to me!"

Again the music rose and Buffy was pretty sure that either the windows or her teeth were about to shatter from the vibrations. Still, slayer hearing was a bitch and sometimes there was no drowning out even the most unwanted sounds.

"Faith, don't leave your apartment," she shouted. "Don't go anywhere that you don't already know. I'm still not sure exactly what I saw or why I saw it, but I know I saw you die!"

She waited for an answer, some kind of acknowledgement that Faith had heard her. Understandably, she was shocked when the door opened. She was even more shocked, however, when a still-naked leg came flying at her and a foot caught her right in the middle of the chest, sending her flying backwards down the remaining twelve steps.

Buffy barely heard the loud thud she made as she landed firmly on her ass just in front of the lower door, nor did she hear the upper door slam shut a few moments later; she only heard the resounding laughter coming from the sneaky ninja kicker inside the apartment.

Alright, so things hadn't gone as well as she'd planned. No, that was a lie; she never had a plan. She had just hoped to hell that Faith would listen and be reasonable. Yeah, fat chance. But hey, things didn't go as badly as they could have. Her ego was bruised – and her ass was too – but she was alive. Faith was alive, at least for the moment. And hey, at least she knew where the girl lived now.

It was time to regroup and approach this from a different angle, and she had to work fast because time, it seemed, was not on her side.

It was nearly an hour later when Buffy made her way back into the library with one of her hands rubbing her sore bottom. Giles watched her with interest as she walked past the table her friends were sitting at, ignoring them as she made her way into his office. A few moments later she appeared with a large ice pack which she placed down on a chair before ever so gingerly sitting down on it.

All eyebrows were raised as she finally looked up at her friends. Xander was trying his best not to smirk but couldn't help it.

"Before anyone asks, no – Faith did not kick my butt." She waited until her friends sighed with relief to rush out, "She kicked my chest and I fell onto my butt."

"She engaged you in combat?" Giles asked, concerned.

"Not exactly. We argued. She closed the door, I kept talking, and then she kicked me out. Literally."

"Buff, you're not exactly vertically gifted. You fell like, three feet, tops," Xander said.

"Did I mention that I was standing at the top of a staircase when she kicked me?"

A chorus of ooh's and doh's followed and Buffy winced as she shifted positions on the chair.

"Since when does her motel have stairs?" Xander asked.

"The motel doesn't. The new place the Mayor is putting her up in does. It's in downtown Sunnydale. If I'd known all it would take to get her on our side was a swanky new place to stay, I would've been apartment shopping months ago."

Buffy tried to hide the look of regret she knew was on her face and Willow tried to ignore it for Buffy's sake; she knew her friend didn't want to talk about the crummy past at the moment.

"Did you have a chance to tell her about the dream before she sent you airborne?" Willow asked, having been fully debriefed by Giles.

"I was in the process of shouting it through her door when I got the boot. Or the foot, actually."

"Do you think it would be worth your time to pursue the matter further?" Giles asked, sitting forward in his chair with his elbows on his knees and his hands wringing together.

Buffy could only shrug. Did she really think Faith was going to listen to her? No, it was too late for friendly warnings and that kind of trust between them. But was she going to give up? How could she? Not when she knew how the story ended.

"Whether we're angry or hurt by Faith, saving people is what I do. What we do. I don't know who the men are or why they're gonna kill her, but I know that she doesn't deserve to be taken down like that; by cowards with guns."

"Maybe we should all go back to her place as a group," Willow suggested. "You know I'm not in the Faith Fan Club but maybe all of us being there would, you know, show her that we want to help."

"Or maybe she'll think we're some kind of deranged teenage lynch mob," Xander added, not at all liking the idea.

"The only place I'm headed tonight is home to soak in a nice hot bath," Buffy said. "I should be back to par by tomorrow and we can try then." She winced as she stood up from the chair, hissing through her teeth in pain.

Faith wasn't even around and she still figured out a way to be a pain in her ass. Go figure.

"Buffy, perhaps waiting until tomorrow isn't the best idea at the moment," Giles said quietly, holding her gaze nervously as the girl turned around and looked at him.

"Why? What aren't you telling me?" She asked, carefully studying his face.

Giles looked down at his hands, then back up to Buffy's face. He looked nervous, guilty, and apologetic all at the same time and Buffy just knew that he was about to drop a bombshell on her.

"Your dream wasn't a coincidence; it was a vision. Events have begun that will lead to Faith's demise."

Buffy stared at him long and hard, trying to remember the fact that he was attempting to help her and not about the last time he withheld information about the council from her.

"Explain?" Buffy asked, her jaw clenched tightly.

"The vision was sent to you by a coven of seers under the council's command. They've shared their visions with the council for hundreds of years. Quentin Travers has seen it and he's sent a team of assassins to eliminate Faith and restore order among their charges."

A tense silence filled the air as Buffy stared at Giles, her friends exchanging glances between each other as they witnessed the showdown.

"How long do I have?" she finally asked.

"They'll be in Sunnydale by tomorrow morning."

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