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Again With the Apocalypse

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"I suppose you're all wondering why we brought you all together like this," Travers said in his Pompous Voice, the one that made Faith want to reach down and rip out his vocal cords.

"Yeah we're a couple miles high and there are…" She paused to take inventory. "Six of us sitting here, all strangers. I think it's safe to say we're wondering why the hell we let you talk us into getting on this plane for Buttfuck Nowhere."

There was a muffled giggle from Pigtails who Faith pegged as a little too trendy but otherwise okay.

"And also when we get fed, because I don't know about the other girls but I am one hungry slayer."

Then there were a few gasps, and Faith knew for sure what she'd already suspected. "So you all know what I am, what I do."

"Why not?" the blonde asked. Boy she was a piece of work. Sullen, aggressive. "We've all done it, too."

Their eyes met, and there was a look of triumph in the blonde's, as if she'd just scored one honkin' big point on Faith.

"I thought…" Faith looked to Travers. "What's this about?"

"Thank you for yielding the floor, Miss Lehane. As Miss Summers quite rightly points out, you've all been slayers in your time. It sometimes happens that a near-death experience will trigger the next slayer in line. In fact, it has happened rather often this century, and the Watcher Council believes it has discovered the reason."

"Gosh, I'm all ears," Faith announced, and one of the others, a tiny woman with salt and pepper hair, said "Do be quiet, dear. You don't need to try so hard."

"We have come into possession of an ancient scroll. Much of what it says isn't germane to this gathering, but one line is quite important: "When seven slayers walk the earth, the walls will thin and the way will open, and in the end the Horsemen will ride."" He paused dramatically.

"Um, Quentin, ancient scroll? How do you guys know it wasn't written by some scribe guy on a toot? And I don't mean to diss your math, but there are only six of us here."

The starched-looking one said, "I think he's trying to explain."

"Okay, okay." These girls were no fun. Well, maybe Pigtails was.

"As to the authenticity of the scroll, we feel that the existence of seven slayers on earth at this time suggests that it's a prophecy worth taking seriously. To our certain knowledge, this has never occurred before in the history of the slayers. And there is a seventh. We know this for a fact. We simply don't know who she is."

"But you know where she is," the starched one said.

"Correct, Dr. Frasier."

"And we're going to find her for you," Miss Summers guessed.

"Full marks, Buffy."

Buffy? Blondie's real name was Buffy? Faith snorted.

"Problem?" Buffy asked. Feisty.

"Something got stuck," Faith told her.

"We are now en route to London where we…"

"London? You never said anything about London."

"We all have jobs. Some of us have families."

"Does Davidson know?" This from the quiet older woman. "Because he's going to figure it out very soon, and he won't be pleased."

"We cleared this with all the necessary authorities, Dr. Bartlet. Agent Davidson is satisfied that you are safe in our hands, and does know about our destination, if not our mission. He is currently napping, I believe."

"Does my husband know?"

"He knows enough to be satisfied that this is for the greater good. We try not to explain too much to the layman."

"So I'm the only one you didn't see fit to inform? I'm not sure I appreciate that."

All through the exchange, Faith stared at the woman, putting the name and the face together until she worked out the puzzle. "You're Abbey Bartlet, the President's wife!" she said. "You can't be a slayer." This was apparently enough to take the minds of the others off their destination because all conversation ceased.

Bartlet frowned at Faith. "Thanks so much. Why don't you take out an ad?"

"What? You thought you'd be anonymous?"

"I thought perhaps everyone would have the courtesy not to mention it."

Faith winced. "Ow. That tells me, doesn't it?"

"Does it?"

"Okay, sorry." She rolled her eyes at Pigtails , looking for a grin, or some sign of amusement, but even Pigtails looked a bit put out with her.

"As to not being a slayer, I promise you I dusted my share of the undead."

"So what happened? No, really, I'm serious. I'd like to know. Quentin here talked about near-death experiences, and I'm really curious about how someone like you…"

Now Abbey smiled. "I'm just like you, Faith. Higher profile, it's true. But a slayer. What Mr. Travers likes to refer to as a "Renunciate." She smiled a little at the oldest woman in the group, who nodded and returned the smile.

"Some things are easier to renounce than others," she observed. "Which is why I do wonder why I agreed to come on this trip, even when I thought we weren't going to leave the country. You say we're going to find this seventh slayer for you? Why? Why can't you and your Watchers do the job?"

"Because we aren't slayers. We're about ninety percent sure now that many slayers have what you might call a sixth sense about one another."

"Oh yeah, that's why Faith here didn't have a clue that she was in a room full of them," Buffy remarked, rather pointedly.

"But you knew. Even without being told. And Sister Peter-Marie knew. I could see it on her face when each one of you joined the group."

"You're a nun?" Faith asked the woman with salt-and-pepper hair. "No joke?"

"No joke."

"Wait… how can you guys not know who this seventh slayer is? You have records up the wazoo," Buffy insisted. You have records from before there were records!" Man, when she got going, she was something, Faith decided. "I don't believe you don't know who this woman is."

They were all watching Travers now, watching the set of his jaw, and the way his lips thinned when he was angry.

"Buffy's right," Pigtails said. "You people know when we blow our noses. How can you not know who this woman is?"

"We have no record of her," he said stiffly. "We have no idea whose death called her, and who was called by her death."

"So how do you know she exists at all?" Dr. Bartlet asked.

"That's something I can vouch for. I brought the source to the Watchers," Dr. Frasier told them

"What source?" Sister Pete asked.

Dr. Frasier gave a little sigh. "I'm sorry, but I can't discuss that. It's a classified project I work on. Please believe me that I trust this source."

There were a few raised eyebrows at that, but no one said anything. Travers broke the uncomfortable silence by saying "I'm afraid I've neglected he niceties. Perhaps we should all make introductions."

Buffy rolled her eyes at Faith. Faith was knocked out.

*************************

To almost everyone's surprise and delight, their final stop was Paris. To no one's surprise, only Dr. Bartlet had ever been there in any unofficial capacity. And in fact, she organized a mass jail break, and led them all out to a gorgeous little café somewhere on the left bank…or the right bank… or wherever the hell Parisians liked to get together to drink coffee. Wherever it was was just fine with Faith. She decided she could get used to living in Paris, especially if someone else was paying. The spook known as Agent Davidson trailed along, but at a discreet distance after learning the hard way that Dr. Bartlet was probably safer with the girls than with the whole of the Secret Service glued to her hip. That little incident had made their brief stay in London a bit uncomfortable, but Faith was pretty sure he viewed them all with a lot more respect now.

After ogling their waiter, and observing that from the front he wasn't much to look at, but that he had the butt that launched a thousand quips, they settled down to business.

"So what can you tell us?" Pigtails asked Dr. Frasier, whose name was Janet. They were all on first names now. Faith, Buffy, Janet, Pete and two Abb(e)ys, so Faith mentally just kept calling Abby #2 "Pigtails." She wondered what would happen the day she slipped and called her that to her face.

Janet looked uncomfortable, particularly since both Pete and Abbey were studying her rather closely. "I honestly can't tell you anything. You know what it's like to have access to classified material," she said, appealing to Abbey and Pigtails, who, Faith had found out, was Navy, and not so much in Faith's cool book anymore because she wasn't fond of things in uniform.

"In this case," Abbey said, I think we're all in a need-to-know situation, don't you?

Janet sighed. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio," she said, annoying Faith who never got quotes. Buffy looked similarly puzzled, as did Pigtails. Maybe it was a generational thing. "I work for a very hush-hush project. At most, I can tell you that it was someone I had the opportunity to work with for a short time who provided the lead on this seventh slayer."

The arrival of their coffee gave her a breather, but only a short one.

"Please continue," Pete said.

"If I were to tell you that there are, ways to access other worlds, even other planes of reality, would you accept that perhaps I have that access? Unfortunately, the focus of my work is not slaying and slayers, and what little I've been able to learn has all been done on my own time," she admitted.

"Like using the company Xerox machine after hours," Pigtails suggested.

"More or less.. And though I have no reason to disbelieve the information I've been given by the, uh, person in question…"

"You hesitated," Buffy said. "It's a demon, right?"

"Not… exactly," Janet hedged. "More like a mythological creature."

They all blinked at her.

"Okay, look…if any of this ever gets out, I'll know who to come looking for," she snapped. "I've crossed over the border between our world and the one that's commonly known as "Faerie." I've met the Sidhe, and one of them, a warrior named Gwydion, told me about this slayer. Happy?"

There was a strained silence at the table. Mostly it was about trying very hard not to laugh in Janet's face. "Ye-ah, I'd call that crossing a few borders," Pigtails observed, and the others broke into waves of giggles.

"Is it that much harder to believe than what we've seen?" Janet demanded, clearly annoyed with them.

Pete, laid a calming hand on her arm. "We don't disbelieve you," she insisted. "Or at least I don't. But, it does sound sort of… well, funny," she said, trying hard not to crack a smile and failing miserably.

"Bedtime stories," Abbey said with a grin.

"I know, I know…" She sighed again. Why is it that everything about my life has to be a big secret? I hate this. I was thrilled when my time as slayer ended, and I thought I could get on with my life. And now I work for this project and I still have no real life to speak of. I mean literally. I can't speak of it."

Later, as the sun set, they strolled along the Seine, and Abbey played tour guide, but she kept saying "Well that hasn't changed for the better." so Faith pretty much tuned her out. Nice city, but honestly, what was the deal? New York was more exciting, and it wasn't all covered with moss or ivy.

There was a very cute man sitting on a bench. And he smiled at Faith, and she smiled at him, and then she began to lag behind the others a bit, even smiling at Davidson as she pretended to be really, really interested in a plaque about how on this spot in sixteen-something-or-other, something boring happened.

"Allo. Ça va?" he said, and offered her a cigarette. She took it and replied, "I don't speak French."

"That's all right," he said in the most delicious English imaginable. "I know we can make contact." He put his arm around her waist, and they walked slowly along, behind the others who were all just enraptured by the sight of Notre Dame. Damn, he smelled good! Faith was liking Paris more and more.

Until he steered her into the shadows under a bridge, and instead of sampling the pleasures of the French kiss in France, she got his game face. Startled, she gave a yell as she went into slayer mode, and began to kick the crap out of him.

"That. Was. Stupid." she said as she punched him, but she didn't know if she was saying it to him or herself. The others were all there, now, encircling them as they fought, and it distracted her enough that he managed to flatten her with one solid punch to the jaw.

Someone else stepped in -- Buffy -- caught the vamp behind one knee with a kick, and brought him down. Then she whipped a stake out of her purse and said "Never leave home without Mr. Pointy." and tossed it to Abbey, who dusted the vamp without a moment's hesitation.

There was a moment of stunned silence. Davidson, who had his gun out, put it away and shrugged. And then all six women just howled with the sheer pleasure of what they were. Even Pete.

"God, how I need to get laid," Faith said as she got up off the cobblestones. She looked over at Davidson. He looked away too quickly, and she wondered if it wouldn't be worth a shot.

******************************

Travers was seriously bent out of shape about their taking off like that. What he got for all his ranting was not six contrite slayers promising to be good girls, but six pissed off slayers telling him that as long as they did their jobs -- and by the way, five of them were no longer his damn business anyway -- he had nothing to say about what they did on an afternoon when he had nothing planned.

Pete even said, "Mr. Travers, have you considered seeing someone about your control issues?"

But the next day he had come up with something for them to do. "You're going to find the seventh," he told them.

"Okay, there are like…what? A couple of million people here in the city. That's how many each?" Faith asked.

"About thirty thousand, give or take," Pigtails volunteered. "But figure roughly half are male, so we only have to deal with around fifteen thousand each."

"Unless we have to search the Ile de France, too," Abbey added. "Which is going to multiply that number by about five."

"Piece of cake," Buffy agreed. "I'm sure we can knock this off in time to have a nice lunch and do some shopping."

"Shoes," Pete said, and Buffy nodded enthusiastically.

"Are you quite finished?" Travers asked.

"Control issues," Pete warned.

He ignored her. "Based on information that was given to Janet, we believe that the woman we're looking for operates on the wrong side of the law."

"This just gets better and better," Pigtails remarked. "What're we supposed to do, canvass prisons?"

"Yes, in part. Sister…"

"You're about to tell me you've brought me on a busman's holiday, aren't you?"

"In effect, yes."

Pete noticed the others staring at her. "I'm not felon," she assured them. "I'm a psychologist. I work in a maximum security prison."

Even Faith was impressed.

"Sister, what we need you to do is to conduct some interviews in the women's prison here. Dr. Bartlet will assist you."

"And the rest of us?"

"Dr. Frasier will remain here, working with our team to try to make more sense out of what she was told and what the scroll tells us. The rest of you will be given a list of leads, and a cover story. You'll essentially be doing outside what Sister Peter-Marie and Dr. Bartlet are doing in the prison with one person on each team who has shown particular sensitivity to the presence of another slayer."

"How I spent my summer vacation…" Pigtails said brightly. "Running around Paris looking for a woman who pokes demons with pointy sticks."

****************************

"How many have we done? Six? Eight?"

"Two. Three if you count the one who was already dead. Wait, four with the one who came after us with a broom. What the heck was it you said to her, Abby?" Buffy asked.

"Well I did say my high school French was rusty."

"Rusty's one thing, getting us chased down the stairs by a lunatic with a broom is another. Why the hell didn't Travers ask if any of us could actually communicate with French people?"

"Why don't we go get ice cream?" Faith asked. "Or coffee. Or sex… I don't care. I just don't want to do this anymore."

"We'll do one more and break for lunch. According to the map, we're right around the corner, and we should…" They turned the corner and stopped cold.

"Wow," Buffy said.

"Wow," Pigtails repeated. The building was a fabulous Art Nouveau-era structure in pristine white stone, with carved lilies framing the door.

"Fuckin' wow," Faith added. "If we're really nice, maybe she'll invite us to stay for la lunch or adopt us or something."

They rang the bell, and were greeted by a middle-aged woman in a flowered dress.

"Ahm…Bonjour, Madame, um, nous representons…"

The woman winced. "I speak English."

"Oh thank God. Um, we're here to see Amanda Darieux."

"Do you have an appointment?"

"Uh…no."

"And what is your business with Madame Darieux?"

"We, uh…represent a group which…"

"Oh, fuck it," Faith blurted. "Tell her we're here because the Watchers told us to come. If she knows what that means she'll want to see us."

"Wait here," the woman said, and closed the door in their faces.

"Why did you say that?" Pigtails demanded.

"We're not getting anywhere with this cover story shit. Let's try being honest for once."

Buffy harshed Faith's glow by pointing out that if the Watchers didn't know about this slayer, then the slayer almost certainly didn't know about the Watchers."

"Didn't think of that," Faith admitted. "Oh well, maybe we'll intrigue her."

"And if she's not a slayer, what are we going to say?"

The door swung open and they found themselves face-to-face with another woman, a slim, graceful woman with a short cap of platinum hair, who said "Who sent you?"

"The Watchers."

"They would never just walk in here and announce themselves. Who sent you?"

That provoked a laugh from Faith. "Girlfriend, they are exactly the sort of people who waltz in and try to take over your life."

The woman frowned. "Who are you?"

"Does the word "slayer" mean anything to you?" Good old Buffy, getting with the program at last, Faith thought.

Amanda's face went stony. "Come in."

She led them into a room so delicious that Faith thought she could eat it on a piece of toast.

"Sit."

"You're Amanda Darieux?" Pigtails asked.

"Yes. And you are?"

"Abby Sciuto, and this is Buffy Summers and that's Faith Lehane."

"And you're the slayer," Buffy said.

"How do you know?"

"She has a sixth sense about these things," Faith said. "How did you manage to stay under their radar, anyway? I mean, you know about them, but they don't know about you."

"And I'd like to keep it that way," Amanda said.

"Well they know now. They know there's a seventh."

"We're not supposed to be telling her all this," Abby protested.

"Seventh? Seven slayers? There's only ever one," Amanda said. Then she said, " Une fille dans tout le monde…"

"None of us get French," Buffy told her.

"One girl in all the world. I remember that much," Pigtails said. "This makes no sense. You know the slayer stuff, but they have no clue who you are. What's going on?"

Amanda paced the room. "What is it you want from me?" she demanded.

"Look, Amanda, there's this scroll they've got, with some big prophecy about when seven slayers walk the earth, blah, blah, blah, again with the apocalypse, okay?"

"Oh my God, that damn scroll!" Amanda groaned. "I should have burned it, but I figured it wasn't worth anything so why not be a good guy for once?"

"You gave it to them?"

"I didn't take it seriously. I was told it mentioned slayers and I thought they might want to have it."

"Well apparently they've taken it very seriously."

"That's not my fault."

"Maybe not," Pigtails conceded, "but they rounded up the six of us and sent us to find you, and now we've got this apocalypse to prevent."

"You know, for truth, justice and the American way?"

"Or French, if you prefer," Buffy told her. "But this is our job."

"Not mine. Not for a long time now. Look, I'm sure you can cope with the apocalypse without me. You all look quite capable. Besides, how do you know what the prophecy really says? In my experience, prophecies are usually kind of vague."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Tell me about it. But if they're right…"

"Hey, tell you what, I'll make a deal with you. Get me the scroll, let me run it past a friend of mine who happens to be in town, and if it says that we all have to do battle with the beasts of the apocalypse, then I'll give it sincere consideration, okay?"

"How are we supposed to do that?"

"Steal it," Amanda said, as if it was the easiest thing on earth.

"No way. You steal it," Faith told her.

To their surprise, she just sighed and said "Oh fine, I have to do everything, don't I?"

***************************

Faith hadn't really wanted to spend the night all scrunched up next to Davidson again; the guy gave off heat like a radiator. So when she heard voices in the room next door, she threw on a tee shirt and jeans and padded on over. Turned out that she was the last to find her way to Buffy's room. The others were all there, apparently discussing Amanda, because as Faith walked in, Janet was saying "But how do you know we can trust her?"

They all turned to look at Faith, then, and the question was lost.

"Where's…"

"Out cold. He'll sleep like the dead until morning," she volunteered.

"Did you drug him? Pigtails asked, horrified.

"No, I fucked the legs off of him. Sorry, Pete."

"I've heard far worse, Faith, trust me. We've been discussing Amanda. What's your take on her?"

Faith was surprised that anyone was asking for her input. But that Pete was doing it gave her an odd, warm feeling in the pit of her stomach. Not that she believed for a minute Pete really cared what she thought, but it was nice of her to ask.

"We sat with her for a couple of hours. She knows a lot about slayers and slaying, but she won't say how. And that they don't know about her kinda weird, but I have the feeling that she's okay, that if this turns out to be on the level and we need her, she'll come through."

They were all listening. Buffy was nodding in agreement. It felt good.

"I don't know…" Pigtails said.

But Faith was on a roll now. "Look, you all remember what Janet said to us that first day in Paris, right? About how she felt when she knew she didn't have to be the slayer anymore? How relieved she was? That's probably the way Amanda feels. She's done something to cut herself off from the Watchers; which one of us wouldn't love to do the same? Because they are royal pains in the ass."

There was some rueful laughter.

"She asked for two days grace, I say any one of us would deserve the same."

There was a long silence. Finally Pete said, "I agree with Faith."

"Same here," Buffy said, moving to stand beside Faith as if by sheer physical presence the two of them could hold off any opposition.

Abbey looked at Pete, then nodded. "I'll go along with it. It's fair."

Janet said, "Y'know if you hadn't used my own words against me… But you're right. I'm not going to deny her what would mean everything to me. We know who she is now, that's enough for the moment."

"I'm outvoted, I guess. Oh heck, okay. I'll agree. I'd rather stick with this group than with the Watchers anyway."

"So where's the scroll?" Faith asked. "She asked to see it, show it to a friend of hers."

"They don't have it here. There's just a copy of it. Downstairs in the office. But I don't see how she expects anyone to figure out what it says. It took the Watchers over a hundred years to finally translate it."

"What?" Faith, Buffy and Pigtails all looked at one another. "How long?" Buffy asked.

"A hundred and four years to be exact. Why?"

"That lying bitch!" Faith spat, and raced out of the room.

She found the window to the office open. "What's missing?" she asked Janet.

It didn't take long. "The copy of the scroll, the translation, and my notes. Was it Amanda?"

"I'm pretty sure. I'm going to kill her. Let's go."

"We're not dressed!"

"Well get dressed and come on!" Faith went out the window after Amanda, while the others scrambled to find clothing. Unfortunately, she was just in time to see Amanda's car disappear down the road, and she went back to the house, and started the car.

"Get in, get in!" she yelled as the others spilled out onto the driveway. "She's not far ahead of us.

Buffy and Pigtails had barely made it in before Faith peeled out of the drive and took off down the road after Amanda's car.

"Is this wise?" Abbey asked.

"She lied to us," Buffy explained. "She said she gave that scroll to the Watchers."

"So unless she's about a hundred and twenty, that's pretty fuckin' unlikely, isn't it?" Faith added. "There she is! Let's run her off the road and knock shit out of her."

"Wait!" Pete ordered. "Follow her. Let's see where she's going."

Faith looked at Pete's reflection in the rear-view mirror. "You sure you're not a felon?"

"Positive. But some things rub off."

They tailed Amanda to a bar, and watched as she went in, carrying a messenger bag. "Pigtails, you take Abbey, Pete and Janet in the front way. Buffy and I are going 'round back to make sure she doesn't get out before we have a chance to talk to her. Give us a minute or two to get around back, K?"

Everyone nodded, and the group split up.

"So what're you thinking?" Faith asked as she and Buffy ran around to the back of the bar.

"Hmm?"

"You've been sort of quiet since we got in the car."

"Nothing special. Just wondering why Amanda told such a silly lie to begin with. She doesn't strike me as being stupid. You?"

Faith had to admit that Buffy was right. Amanda was far from stupid.

"She's a slayer, she knows a lot about us. Why would she bother to tell a lie like that?"

"I guess that's what we're here to find out."

"Okay, so long as we're here to find out something."

"Cross my heart," Faith joked.

"Good. Because I've also been thinking how much I want to kiss you."

Faith was stunned. "You're shitting me."

"Nope."

"Later then?"

"Definitely later. Now let's go." And Buffy burst through the back door of the bar with Faith close behind. And stopped fast. Faith plowed into her and they both stumbled forward.

"Oh."

"Oh?"

"Oh!"

Amanda was sitting at a table with two men. One of them was holding the copy of the scroll. The other -- easily one of the handsomest men Faith had ever seen -- was standing up, holding a sword.

"No, Duncan! It's okay." Amanda said. "What're you two doing here?"

"We came to find out why you lied to us," Buffy said, as the other slayers entered the room from the bar area. Oh, Abby you know, but from the left that's another Abbey, Sister Pete, and Janet.

"I didn't lie to you. Sister? You're a nun and a slayer?"

"I don't do much of the latter these days," Pete told her. "But we really need to know if you did actually tell the girls that you gave the scroll to the Watchers. Because if you did it was a stupid lie, Amanda."

Amanda said, "I did, and it wasn't a lie. But please, will you all sit down and let Adam do his job? Tell me what it says exactly," she said to the skinny, beaky one who was holding the copy.

"Exactly might be a bit hard, but I can tell you that their translation is way off. Look at this character here; it doesn't mean seven the way they've translated it."

The slayers all pulled up chairs. Faith noticed that Pigtails sat very close to Adam while Janet did the same to the one with the sword. Duncan? Well, good luck to them. Faith was sticking close to Buffy now.

Adam picked up a pencil and began to write out translations. There was a lot of crossing out and muttering as he worked, but finally he laid the pencil down. "You have to understand," he said to the assembly, "that this language is a very obscure Mesopotamian dialect, transliterated into a later written language, so whether the original thought is anywhere in this is debatable. However, this is a far better translation than anything your Watchers were able to provide."

He handed the sheet to Sister Pete, who looked at it and laughed. ""When mighty slayers trample the land, the Horsemen will ride, and walls (of the citadel) will crumble, and in the end the way will open." Yes, that's a lot different."

"Given what I know about that place and that time, and the Horsemen they mention, I'd say that you're a few thousand years too late to do anything about it. And now, if you'll excuse us, Duncan and I are going to have a beer, and then turn in. It's been a long day. Good-night, ladies. It's been a pleasure."

Duncan stopped to kiss Amanda's cheek, and followed Adam out without more than a nod to the others.

"Oh my God, they were cute," Abbey said. "Are you…"

"Not currently. Right now they're sort of involved."

"I kind of figured," Faith said with a grin. Then she sobered. "Now you'd better tell us what this business is about because I don't like being lied to."

"I didn't lie. I did give the scroll to the Watchers in eighteen-ninety-five."

"Bullshit."

"No, it's not, Faith. You believe in demons, vampires, werewolves, don't you? Then why should this be so hard for you to believe?"

"Because you're a slayer, not one of those things."

"You're right on both counts, but there are more things in heaven and earth…"

"Yeah, yeah, I know, I've heard that one before. So you want us to believe that you're over one hundred years old?"

Amanda was silent for a moment, then she said, "I am eleven hundred and seventy-six years old. I was called as a slayer in fifteen-twelve, and remained the slayer until a death in fifteen-thirty-six."

""A death?"" Buffy asked.

"I have died more times than any of you can imagine."

"I don't believe a word of this shit," Faith growled, and a moment later, there was a knife in Amanda's hand. Both Pigtails and Janet threw themselves in front of Abbey and Buffy and Faith were both on their feet, ready to rush her.

"Just calm down and listen to me for a moment. I want you to remember that I know enough about the watchers and slayers to tell the world what it is that you do. Do you understand?"

"Threats? Bitch, please!"

"Do you understand?" Amanda said again, more forcefully.

"We understand," Pete told her. Now put the knife down."

"Just watch," Amanda said, and drew the knife down her own forearm, laying open a long, deep cut. She tossed the knife onto the table and Buffy snatched it up.

"That's disgusting," Faith said.

"Just watch."

And suddenly a line of blue flame erupted from the cut, it wavered and danced for close to a minute, and as it did, they saw the blood flow stop, and the flesh heal itself so cleanly there was not even a touch of red to mar her lovely skin.

There was a long silence, finally broken by Abbey who said "Immortal?"

"You know about us?"

"I'm a doctor, and the wife of the President of the United States. I've seen your kind before, and I've seen your handiwork. I can't say I understand why you do what you do, but I'm satisfied that you've told us the truth." She looked to each of the others and asked, "What shall we tell Travers?"

All the anger seeped out of Faith then as she understood that even Amanda, whose existence was something she barely understood, was more her tribe than Travers and his kind ever could be. They had to stick together. If she was sure of anything in her life, this was it.

"There was a woman on our list who'd died just a few days before we went to talk to her. Her husband was really beside himself. Why don't we just say that we talked to him and from what he said, we knew that she'd been the slayer we were looking for?"

"That's good, but what about the prophecy?"

"Oh that's actually simple," Janet told them. I'll tell him I disobeyed his orders and faxed the copy to someone else on my project, and he came up with the alternative translation. Mind if I take this?" she asked as she took the translation from Pete.

"Be my guest. I don't want it," Amanda replied.

"He'll be pissed," Buffy warned. Obviously she'd endured Travers in the past.

"What's he going to do, fire me?" Janet asked with a laugh.

"It's kind of anti-climactic, isn't it?" Pigtails observed.

"Never mind, we'll go shopping tomorrow and buy cute shoes," Buffy promised her. "Okay, troops, let's motor. So long, Amanda."

"Live long and prosper," Pigtails told her.

Only Faith hung back to talk to Amanda.

"Y'know what?"

"What?"

"I always wondered why there was no good magic on this rock. Tell me this is good magic."

"It's good magic," Amanda told her. "We don't prey on human beings."

"Thanks."

Amanda winked at her, and left the room. Faith ran to catch up to the others. "I don't suppose there's anywhere around here we could get a burger?" she said to Abbey.

"Not at two a.m."

Buffy sat beside her in the car on the way back to the house. Where their thighs touched, there was electricity, almost like that blue flame that had healed Amanda's arm.

They were the last ones in, and stopped to lock the door.

"Long night," Faith observed.

"Very."

"I suppose you're kind of tired."

"A bit."

"I guess you'd rather I went back to my ro-- Oh…"

"What?"

"Davidson."

Buffy smiled. "That is awkward for you. I guess maybe you should come back to my room."

"You think?"

"Oh yeah," Buffy said as she put out the light in the hallway. "I think."