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When she'd finally caught wind of what her vampire ex was up to with Wolfram and Heart, Buffy had turned into her General Slayer-persona in two seconds flat, banded together as much of her army that was readily available and headed straight for LA.

When the army (or at least a battalion) of slayers arrived the battle had been in full swing, and many of the demon combatants had barely noticed that they were now fighting on yet another front. This, of course, made it a heck of a lot easier for the slayers to slaughter as many of the ugly fuckers as possible before they caught on. It actually took a good half hour before the more intelligent factions of the demons banded together against their new opponents, but by then it was too late. In between slaughtering their own allies, being picked of by superpowered teenage girls and, not to forget the heroic (albeit suicidedly stupid) resistance from Angels little band of guerilla-fighters, the demon hordes thinned out, and it started to look like the battle of LA was going to end with a victory for the side of good.

Against Giles rather adamant advice, both Buffy and Faith had wanted in on the action. His warning against the foolhardiness of letting both senior slayers enter the battle went pointedly ignored, by Buffy because she still hadn't quite forgiven him for the last couple of days in Sunnydale, and by Faith because she really didn't give a crap. Faith, in her mind, owed Angel her life, and that took precedence over Giles's protestations any day.

Willow, on the other hand, had opted to stay out of it, as she and Kennedy was currently holed up somewhere in South America. In her place, a resigned Giles had managed to find a young Wicca from the coven in England who had helped Willow during her Dark Period. Emmaline Gray was not as powerful as the red-headed Scooby, obviously, but she could handle herself in a fight, and most importantly, she was very proficient in telepathy. Every slayer that had traveled with Buffy and Faith to LA was psychically connected via Emmaline, to each other and to their commanders.

Faith and Buffy had separated early on, but kept tabs on each other via the psychic link. When Buffy had seen a glimpse of who she was sure was Angel in a skirmish about a hundred feet in front of her, she had quickly sent a message to Faith.

“I've got Angel, straight ahead. Working my way up to help”

“Gotcha, B. Don't let the big lug get dusted”.

Faith had continued on her own path, hacking and slashing at everything even remotely demonic around her. She was so invested in the fighting that she nearly missed a familiar flash of peroxide blonde hair duck into an alley. She frowned and changed her course slightly, intent on investigating the sight.

Couldn't be Spike, could it? Not freakin' possible. He'd burnt to ashes in the hellmouth, courtesy of Liz Taylors' rejected bling. Buffy said she had seen it herself. So who the hell was this impostor? Faith stepped in to the alley and took in the scene in front of her.

It certainly looked like Spike. His hair, his duster, his cheekbones, and the unmistakable style of fighting that no one but him could pull off. He looked tired though. Blood was dripping down his face, his jeans were torn and bloodied and as she watched, he somehow failed to notice the giant Fyral Demon coming up behind him, intent on his dusty demise.

Couldn't have that now. If it WAS Spike, B would have some choice words for him. Buffy may have thought that no-one noticed, but the red rimmed eyes she'd sported in the days after the battle of the hellmouth, and her refusal to talk about Spike ever since, smoothly changing the subject every time he was mentioned was a dead giveaway for grief, even for someone as emotionally stunted as Faith herself claimed to be. On the other hand, if it wasn't really him, then Faith wanted to know exactly what kind of clone this was, and how to kill it for impersonating the fallen hero of Sunnydale. Or whatever. She'd kinda had a soft spot for the peroxide pest herself. He'd had good taste in smokes.

She smoothly stepped up behind the Fyral, and the big ugly barely even noticed her as she cleaved him in half with the wicked sharp battle-axe she sported. Disappointing. Spike, or the Spike-clone noticed though. As the two half of the Fyral neatly fell on either side of her, he swiftly turned around and stared, sporting a rather comical look of chock on his face.

...” Faith?!”

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Spike beheaded the Grousnijk-demon in front of him, then in one move crouched low, spun around on his heels and chopped the knees of the ugly, dripping thing directly behind him. When it fell he skewered it through the neck, then quickly moved on to his next opponent. The battle had raged for over seven hours. They had lost Wesley and Gunn, but there had been no time to feel the grief.

Onslaught after onslaught of demons kept coming, and there was no sign of the hordes thinning out. Onward and upwards, slashing and hacking, and then a ten minute break behind a dumpster or in a narrow alley to catch his technically nonexistent breath.

Had it not been for the fact that the different demon fractions in the hellish army had grudges and rivalries against each other going back several milennia, and was fighting as much amogst themselves as they tried to eviscerate him he would have been dust within the first hour. Thank the bloody PTB, most of them seemed just as happy to lop the head of the demon next to them as going after him. Not that they'd forgotten him entirely. As it was he had blood dripping down his face from a cut near his hairline, he'd taken an axe to his thigh and an arrow to close to the heart for comfort. On top of that here was a million scrapes and bruises, aches and pains, but he was not ready to give in just yet. He was going down fighting, fist and fangs, and the fuckers would have to work bloody hard before they got the better of him.

Not that he had any illusions of coming out of this non-dusty.

He had lost sight of Angel a couple of hours before. The great forehead had actually managed to take down the bloody dragon before Spike lost sight of him in the wreathing masses. He was pretty sure the great brooder was around somewhere though. He had not felt the loss of his sire, and so he was pretty confident that Angel wasn't dust just yet. He'd see glimpses of Illyria from time to time, but she didn't stop her furious path of destruction for a second, just kept going and going through her enemies, possibly half mad with new human emotions she wasn't equipped to deal with. The loss of Wesley had hit her hard.

He was in need of a break, but there was enemies on all sides, and he had no choice but to keep on going. His muscles was screaming at him though, and he knew that his fatigue was making him dangerously sloppy. In fact, he was inches from getting his head ripped of by a Fyarl that he'd failed to notice coming up behind him, and it was only the keening gurgle that his would-be killer emitted as he was cleaved in half that clued him in that something was amiss.

He spun around, only to come face-to-face with his savior, of all the people in the sodding world...

...” Faith?!”

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The slayer in question had him pinned against the wall of the alley in half a second, pressing the blade of her axe against his throat. She looked him straight in the eyes with a dangerous gilint in her eyes. After about five seconds she'd apparently seen all she needed to, and she let up the axe slightly and asked him a question.

“What did I tell you the first time we met?”

It took Spike a moment to catch on, but when he did he allowed a weak smirk to show on his battered face.

“That you could ride me a gallop 'til my knees buckled, and squeeze me 'till I pop like warm champagne.” He chuckled. “Iv'e said it before, pet. Not the kind of thing a man forgets”.

Faith threw him a wicked grin and stepped back. As he gingerly felt his throat, she looked him up and down. “So it really is you, huh? Don't mind saying you look like all hell, but not as bad as I was expecting you to. Seeing as you're supposed to be so much dust in the bottom of Sunnyhell crater.” She locked eyes with him again, and affected a serious look. “So how come you're not? And how come we didn't know that you made it?”

Spike broke eye-contact and started fidgeting. He desperately wished for a smoke, but didn't have any on him. When he didn't answer straight away, Faith sighed and decided to bring in the big guns. She concentrated on contacting Buffy via the link.

“B? You there?”

“Here Faith. Angels ok. Battle's dying down 'round here. What's up?”

“Need you to come here, B. Someone you oughta see.”

“Who? Someone hurt?”

“No. Just come find me. I'll watch him 'till you get here”

“Who?” When Faith didn't answer, she could almost feel rather than hear Buffy sigh in her mind.

“Never mind. Be right there. This better be important”.

Faith broke the connection and turned back to Spike. “You won't have to explain yourself to me, but Buffy's on her way, and you'd better believe she'll have some things to say to you. She'll probably kick your resurrected ass for not telling her you were back.”

If it were possible for a vampire to turn even paler, Spike managed it. He looked worried for just a moment, before he shook his head and furrowed his brows. “I thought her highness were living the high life in Rome? Palling it up with the soddin' immortal wanker? Did she really deign to come all the way to bloody' Los Angeles?”

The grumpy look on his face nearly made Faith burst out laughing. “Dunno what stories you've heard, but we've been in Scotland almost since sunnyhell fell... I'm sure she'll tell you all about it when she gets here”. Faith smirked. “Can't wait to see the fireworks.”

As soon as the words had left her mouth, someone appeared at the mouth of the alleyway. Thinking it was Buffy, both Spike and Faith turned towards the apparition just in time to see the demonic warlock who was definitely not the blonde slayer general twirl his staff in a complex pattern.

The wall behind Faith suddenly turned into a swirling vortex of green-blue light, and the pull was too strong to resist. And as the real Buffy arrived at the scene, she was just in time to see her sister slayer disappear into the swirling, glittering portal, while she and someone who looked remarkably like the vampire she'd thought lost in the hell mouth could do nothing but watch.

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It was a testament to Buffys remarkable self control that she didn't proceed to hack the demonic warlock into itty bitty pieces when she realized what had happened. Instead, she managed to knock him unconscious before sending a message to Emmaline. She did not panic. She was calm and collected and not at all on the verge of exploding into a ball of rage. Really.

She also pointedly did not look at the apparition of Spike. Or speak to him. Or acknowledge his existence at all until he cleared his throat and laid a hand on her shoulder. She turned toward him and battered his hand away. “Later”, she growled at him. He simply nodded, and managed to look both sheepish and serious all at once.

The Wicca arrived on the scene in a matter of minutes, with a small squad of slayerettes in tow. They were met by a grim faced Buffy who did her best to explain what she had seen based on the limited information she had.

None of the girls that arrived on the scene had ever laid eyes on the blond man in the leather duster before, but beyond giving him a quick once over to see if he presented a threat, he went ignored once Buffy started talking. He was alright with that, actually. Faith had just saved his unlife. He'd rather liked the brunette firecracker of a slayer, and priority number one right now was to get her back from whatever hell-dimension the now trussed-up portal wielder had sent her too. He and Buffy could have their confrontation later. Preferably much later.

As the battle of Los Angeles died out around them, the Slayers immediately started working on saving Faith, the dark slayer, from the nightmare she'd undoubtedly landed in.

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Chapter Text

Blinding green light, a sensation of falling, and then abrupt and startling pain as her body landed hard on what she assumed was the ground. She stayed completely still for longer than her slayer instincts thought prudent, but her body was delivering clear and very adamant protests about even thinking about moving, so she elected to obey her physical needs for the time being.

After what could have been an hour, or maybe five minutes, she had no fucking clue, she blearily cracked open her eyes. She immediately closed them again as her head loudly screamed at her that her skull was about to split open.

She allowed herself another five minutes to take an inventory of her faculties; arms, legs and definitely head all seemed to be attached, and no one part of her seemed to be in more pain than any other part. It was more like a persistent ache in every cell of her body, as if she had been scrunched up like a paper ball and then smoothed out.

She carefully opened her eyes again. This time she was prepared for the pain in her head as the gray light hit her retinas, so she ignored every signal of her frayed nerve endings and sat up. She somehow managed to get to her feet and took in her surroundings.

She'd landed in a ditch. If she'd had the energy or the presence of mind she'd have snorted at the symbolism. The sun was almost completely set, but her eyes were actually thankful for the murky, weak light. Any brighter, and she'd felt like her eyeballs might have burned out of her skull.

In front of her was a forest, pines and fir trees stretching up towards a gray sky. Frost covered the ground, and for the first time she noticed just how freakin' cold it really was. She'd dressed for LA this morning, but she'd bet her perky ass she wasn't in SoCal anymore, Toto.

Swaying on her feet she turned around, and saw to her relief that behind her was a road. A proper, tarmacked road that thankfully told her that the portal hadn't pulled her into some medieval demon-dimension hellhole or too far back in time for motorized vehicles. Always a risk when being sucked into portals of glowing light.

A quick pat down confirmed that all the weapons she'd carried on her person during the battle had made the journey with her. Two stakes, one bowie knife strapped to her leg and one smaller, but no less lethal dagger, and of course the battle-axe, which had landed a few feet away. She stashed it away under a few bushes for the time being. It was too bulky to carry around unseen, and she'd rather not come across as a crazy axe-murderer to any civilians she might happen upon. At least not before she knew the lay of the land as it were. She could come back for it later.

Well then. Upwards and onward. Tarmac meant cars. Cars meant civilization. Civilization meant warmth, and food, and possibly beer. She'd kill for a beer right now.

She climbed out of the ditch and followed the black tarmac road, grateful for the small mercy of not having any yellow bricks in sight.

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The nearest town turned out to be just about an hours walk away. Manning, Colorado sported as many churches as it did dive bars (three of each), one rundown motel, a very small library, a coffee shop and a diner. Her rumbling stomach had her walking directly to the diner, despite the fact that it looked like it hadn't been renovated or redecorated since the early 1950's. It probably hadn't changed its staff since either, judging by the elderly waitress leaning over the counter. She looked at least 80 years old.

The waitress looked up from her half finished crossword puzzle as Faith walked in the door, did a double take and stared at the slayer with a mixture of suspicion and pity in her milky grey eyes. Faith didn't blame her. She hadn't looked in a mirror in a while, but after the demon battle, a ride through a mysterious portal and an hour long walk on a road through a frost covered forest in nothing but a denim jacket she could just about imagine what she looked like. She made an effort to look as unthreatening as possible as she gently lowered herself down in a booth. She ordered a burger, and the skeptical look in the older woman's eyes vanished as she paid up front even before getting her food. Thank God her money worked on this side of the glowy demon portal.

The only other patron in the diner was a grey haired man in a flannel shirt and an old canvas jacket. He was sitting in a corner booth facing the door with his back to the wall. He glanced up from his half eaten meatloaf as Faith sat down.

Had Faith been anyone else she wouldn't have given the old man a second though, but years of ingrained training and slayer instincts made her recognize a potential threat when she saw it. The way he'd elected to sit with a clear view of the entrance while protecting his back, and the way his jacket was half zipped up despite the warmth in the diner told her that he was probably armed. At least a knife or two, possibly a gun.

His demeanor practically screamed 'uninterested', but she'd bet her fabulous ass that he wouldn't drop his gaze on her for a second for as long as they were in the same room. That was fine. She shifted a bit sideways so that she could see him at the corner of her eye as well.

When her food arrived she was ravenous, and she practically inhaled the entire plate. That must have looked more pathetic than scary, because as soon as she was done with her burger the waitress poured her a cup of black coffee without her asking for it, patted her hand and told her “on the house, dear.” The slight look of pity made Faith feel extremely uncomfortable, and she could barely manage an awkward smile as a thank you.

She'd passed the motel on her way into town, and she was pretty sure the money she had left would get her a room for a night or two. Long enough to hustle up some more cash, or possibly even catch the next glowing portal home. She had no doubt that B would rustle up some sort of rescue plan, not because they were best buds nowadays or anything, but because she was too much of a 'hero-type' to leave anyone, not even a former enemy-turned-semi-reformed-ally on the other side of a glittery gateway to God-knows-where.

The second the door closed behind her as she left the diner, the grey haired man affected a nonchalant manner, left some cash on the table and followed her out.

 

*^*^*^*^*

Not a lot of people passed through Manning. It was one of the reasons he liked this place. Mostly truckers, possibly a drifter or two. It was rare that they stayed more than a couple of days. Not even creatures of the night seemed to find anything worth staying for in Manning. Every time he noticed a stranger he made a threat assessment., and usually managed to take care of anything fugly that came trough town. He didn't actively go on any hunts anymore, but any vampire, werewolf or occasional ghoul that passed through his territory didn't get the opportunity to leave again. He actually hadn't seen anything supernatural in town for more than three years now. It'd been a ca long time since his last hunt, but his instincts were as good as ever.

And this girl set of alarm bells in his entire body.

As soon as she'd entered the diner the klaxons inside his head went off. She was wearing nothing but a thin denim jacket despite the cold weather, her right cheek sported a greenish-purple bruise and her hair looked like a rats nest. He'd bet his last bottle of Jack that she was armed. The way she carried herself screamed 'threat', and the way she had cased the room as soon as she entered told him she was on edge, even though her face gave nothing away.

His first though had been 'vampire', but the way she'd inhaled her burger told him that this was not the case. A hunter, possibly, although he couldn't be sure she was entirely human. Something was definitely off...

As soon as she left the diner, he followed her out. He saw her disappear into the alley just next to the diner, and he carefully edged around the corner. He was carrying a hunting knife, and he drew a gun loaded with silver bullets. He was fairly confident he could take care of whatever threat she posed.

As prepared as he was, he was still surprised when she dropped from above, disarmed him, and pushed him against the wall with his arm around his back. A voice just next to his ear practically purred; “Hello. My name is Faith. Nice to meet you.” The grip on his arm tightened as he struggled, and the purr turned into a growl.

“Now, who the hell are you?”

“Daniel Elkins”, answered a female voice that still, after all these years sent chills down his spine.

 

*^*^*^*^*^*^*

Of course she'd noticed him following her outside the diner. Hell, she would almost have been disappointed if he hadn't. She made sure he'd seen her slip into the narrow alley next to the diner, and as soon as she was out of sight she'd jumped up and grabbed the fire escape. Kind of a predictable move, sure, but thanks to her overly quick reflexes it turned out quite effective.

Only a few seconds later she'd seen him edge carefully around the wall, a drawn gun in his hand. She dropped down, pressed him against the wall, took hold of his wrist and smacked his hand against the wall until he dropped the weapon.

With her whole body pressed against his back it was glaringly obvious just how much shorter than him she actually was. She had to stand on her tippy-toes to put her lips next to the shell of his ear and introduce herself.

Totally worth it for the badass effect though.

As he struggled in her grip she applied some of her slayer strength, and with a much harsher tone than she'd used just previously she asked;
“Who the hell are you?”

“Daniel Elkins”, answered a throaty, distinctly female voice just to her left.

The woman blocking the entrance to the alley instantly made every hair on Faiths body stand straight up. Her slayer senses went haywire and screamed 'VAMP' as loud as they possibly could. The newcomer was flanked by two tall men built like brick houses , and Faith internally dubbed them 'Goonie one' and 'Goonie two'. The woman was tall and lean, with short red hair and a self confident smirk that set the slayers teeth on edge. It was clear that little miss confident was the ringleader. She heard her captive mutter under his breath, and she let up a bit on her grip. It was obvious that the three interlopers were not great friends of this Daniel Elkins, whoever the hell he was.

“Luther sends his love”, purred the redheaded woman, and actually blew a kiss in their direction. “He'll be sorry to have missed you, but sadly he is otherwise occupied right now. If he'd known you'd be here I'm sure he would have joined us”. Her smirk grew even more devilish. “It seems you've been quite busy yourself. If your little friend just lets you go, we might consider letting her live. For a while, at least.” She turned to Faith. “This one is ours, sugar. If you leave now, you'll even get a head start.”

Faith was not impressed. This little twit clearly thought she was hot shit, but the slayer had seen bigger, badder things than her any given patrol back home. Hell, Spike would have just sneered and ripped out her spine, end of. She quirked a brow in the direction of the trio, then turned to Elkins.

“You know the three stooges?” she asked him.

It took him a few seconds, but he answered. “They are Vampires.” he said. “I know that sounds insane, but...”

“Say no more”, she interrupted. “Is it cool if I take out these morons before we continue our little talk?” she asked, then continued; “If you could wait to try and shoot me 'till after I'm done with them that would be good, okay? Thanks!”

And so she let go of Daniel Elkins and launched a full scale attack before her opponents had a chance to get their shit together. She went for the leader first, and managed a solid punch right in that sneering mouth, quickly followed by a kick to her kneecap that must have hurt like a bitch considering the loud cracking sound. That felled the redhead to the ground, and she turned towards Goonie One with a flurry of kicks and punches before finishing him off with a stake to the heart.

Or so she thought.

The stake went through his sternum like a knife through hot butter, but the expected cloud of dust didn't happen. Her eyes went from the stake to the vamps face, and got an eyeful of a mouth full with sharp, shark-like teeth set in a face completely free of the expected vampire bumps.

That was all she had time to register, before Goonie Two ripped her off his colleague and managed to land a crushing punch to her cheek that sent her sprawling. She was blinking away stars when he loomed over her, grinned with way too many sharp fangs and lifted a huge boot preparing to crush her skull between the asphalt and his foot.

That's when Daniel Elkins shopped his head clean off.

*^*^*^*^*^*

It took him a moment to catch up to what exactly was happening, but he hadn't survived thirty years as a hunter for nothing.

The slip of a girl that was a lot stronger than she had any right to be had easily overpowered him, but had then just as quickly let him go to focus on the bigger threat. He'd right out told her they were vampires, and she'd been completely unfazed. She'd fought like a brawler, but with a fluid kind of grace that showed both natural talent and intensive training. All signs pointed to hunter.

At least up to the point when she'd tried to STAKE the freakin' vampire! Come on, what kind of rank amateur was he dealing with here!

The three vampires seemed to have forgotten him for the time being, and as the big burly one prepared to plant his large boot in Faiths face he drew the machete he'd stashed under his coat, stepped around quietly and neatly separated the vampires head from its neck. The body collapsed into a heap, and the head rolled away and ended up behind a dumpster.

He stretched out a hand to help Faith on her feet. As she took it he decided to give her a crash course in Vampire Hunting, seeing as they still had two left to take out.

“Okay kiddo, vampires 101; you gotta chop their heads off. Staking them aint gonna do squat. Got it?”

She gave him a skeptical look, but quickly brandished a big Bowie knife. The remaining vamps had gotten to their feet, and just as the redheaded vamp gave a screech and bared her teeth Faith rolled her shoulders back and leapt into action.

 

*^*^*^*^*

Two minutes later there were three headless bodies littering the ground. It wasn't easy decapitating someone with a knife, even if it was a big and extremely sharp one, but Faith had managed by jumping on the female vamps back, holding on with her legs while she hacked at the redheads neck. Meanwhile, Elkins had gone for the remaining Goonie, and when Faiths opponent finally succumbed to the slayer on her back he got an opening and managed to cut off the head he was aiming for.

When it was all over Elkins were visibly panting, and while Faith had worked up a sweat and had quite a sore jaw, she didn't look like anyone who had gone two rounds in a deadly fight and won. She wiped her knife on one of the corpses jean-clad legs.

“What kind of hunter doesn't know how to kill vamps?”, she heard Elkins say with a gruff voice.

“All right”, she said, rolling her shoulders and stretching out a kink in her neck; “First off; where I come from, a stake to the heart usually does the trick just fine. Poof, no more vamp, no messy clean-up. Second; those shark-faces didn't look like any kind of vampire I've ever seen.” She shook her head and stepped close enough to look him straight in the eye. “And also”, she continued, “Not a hunter. Faith Lehane, vampire slayer.” She stared him down for a moment, but got no sign of recognition. He clearly did not know what a Slayer was. Which reminded her; “Oh yeah”, she blinked. “The hell is a 'hunter' anyway? Guessing it has nothing to do with shooting Bambi.”

Daniel Elkins stared at the strange girl in front of him. Not faced by the existence of vampires, but knows shit about how to kill them. Probably no older than 22, maybe 23. Hell, his car was older than her. Five feet nothing, hella attitude and mad fighting skills. She'd clearly been through more than anyone that young ought to. And where did she come from anyway, that strange place where vampires didn't look like the ones they just killed, and allegedly went 'poof' when staking them.

Suddenly he felt a lot older than his fifty-five years.

Faith heard him sigh deeply, and he turned his eyes to the bloody corpses on the ground.

“Look kiddo”, he said, “we need to continue this conversation somewhere else. Lets clean up our mess, and then...” He rubbed his neck warily and sighed again before continuing. “I could really, really use a drink.”

Faith followed his gaze and took in the carnage. It really was more convenient when they went 'poof'.

“Yeah", she said, “I'd kill for a drink. Figuratively speaking, of course”.

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