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Chapter 5: The ‘T’ should be capitalized.

Black paint swirled, creating a delicate arch across the concrete as Buffy turned her wrist, nose wrinkling as the metallic scent grew heavier, and traced out another symbol on the garage wall. Professor Dormer was kneeling behind her adding the intricate words of Latin to the Grand Pentacle taking up most of the floor in the hopes that its presence would compel Castiel to bow and obey—unless of course he really was an angel and all their hard work was for not.

Her mouth twisted, wrist falling away from the wall as she resisted the urge to rest her head against the newly formed heptagram and instead took a step back, around Dormer’s busy hands. The Watcher’s head lifted, eyes narrowing on Buffy before she turned her gaze on the Slayer’s handy work and her eyes widened as she pushed herself into a kneeling position. “The Fifth Pentacle of Mars?”

Buffy turned, looked at the circle encased scorpion and shrugged. “Is that what it’s called?”

“Yes, it is.” Dormer rose onto her feet, made her way closer and Buffy watched her stay mindful of keeping out of arms reach even as she studied the paint on the wall. She inclined her head toward Buffy before asking, “How do you know this symbol?”

“Hell.” Dormer stiffened, turned bodily towards her as Buffy kept her gaze focused on the wall. “They used different ones to torment each other. I paid attention to which ones caused the most harm.”

“Handy.” Buffy’s shoulders dropped with Faith’s casual assessment and she turned away from the symbol to watch the other Slayer stroll down the few steps leading from the house into the garage. The brunette’s shoulders were pulled back; chin high as she glanced around the newly painted room. “Smells rank though. Might want to crack a window.”

Dormer moved back to the Grand Pentacle and countered with ease, “And that would undo half the night’s work.”

Faith’s eyes narrowed. “Your headache.”

The Watcher gave only a slight huff in reply before rattling her can and going back to work. Buffy watched her a moment, hands falling to her side as she tried to ignore the fact that they, she and Dormer, were debasing what was left of her home, the only place they knew for certain Castiel had made his presence known, and under Faith’s careful supervision. The other Slayer had kept her mouth mostly shut except for the odd snide comment that managed to keep Buffy on edge.

Not that Buffy was expecting them to be instant buds, not after they’d spent the better part of their first meeting pummeling each other and in retrospect she appreciated the comfort, even if awkward, of Willow’s presence and missed it. Though she got, really she did, why Dormer had insisted the Scooby Gang sit this one out. Summoning whatever had dragged her out of hell wasn’t going to be a neat or easy process and keeping Willow, Xander and Cordelia far from danger seemed like a solid plan. Now if only she could get Faith to stop with the staring contests she’d be right as rain—or not.

“I think we’re ready.”

With a frown and shake of her head Buffy pulled herself free of internal musings and Faith’s narrow-eyed glare and focused on Dormer as she stood and made her way toward the small card table she’d set up along the wall farthest from the garage door. Buffy took a step to follow her and found Faith suddenly and effectively blocking her path. “Where’re you goin’?”

Suppressing the urge to roll her eyes Buffy sighed, “Was going to throw this,” she shook her can of spray paint, “in the bag with the others but the corner will do,” and tossed the can over Faith’s shoulder. Said shoulders tightened in response and Faith took a step forward, arms crossing and Buffy gave up on the niceties. “I’m done apologizing to you. Back off.”

Faith’s head cocked, glossed mouth curving into an insolent smile. “Gonna make me?”

Buffy’s brows rose as she mimicked Faith’s stance and speech and replied with, “Gonna try.”

“Children, am I going to have to separate you?”

The annoyance and authority in Dormer’s tone left little room for argument and Faith’s hands clenched, balling into fists before she stepped back and to the side. Buffy tensed before taking a hesitant step forward and paused, kept Faith in her peripheral vision before finishing the space between her and the table in a few uneasy strides. The hairs along the back of her neck rose as she felt Faith’s gaze, her anger and mistrust focused solely on her as she took the spot beside Dormer.

A few familiar and several not so familiar words of Latin spilled past the Watcher’s lips as she lit the three candles set on the edge of the table closest to the wall before lifting a wicked looking knife and bringing down into a pile of grave dirt, from Buffy’s grave, and through it. The blade sank into the card table beneath the small mound and the handle thrummed from the force behind her strike as Dormer’s hand slid from it.

She inhaled slow and precise and with her exhale she extinguished all the candles and Buffy’s head cocked as she prompted, “Did ya make a wish?” There was startled snort from behind them and Buffy turned, caught Faith’s smirk and the flash of humor before she swallowed it down and her face slipped back into angry lines. “I’m not your enemy.”

Faith blinked at her, brows dropping low, but it was Dormer that answered Buffy’s statement with, “We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?”

“I thought we’d already figured that part out,” Buffy frowned, “hence your help with the possible unfriendlies.”

Faith moved forward, the back of her jeans scraping over the concrete floor as she moved to stand closer to Buffy. “I thought that too.”

Buffy’s spun to stare at the side of her head. “Then why the ‘tude, solidarity girl?”

The brunette turned, met Buffy’s glare with one of her own. “Hard to be nice to the person beating on you.”

“You beat on me first!”

“You just crawled outta your grave!”

Buffy sighed, head cocking as she accepted Faith’s answer with a shrug. “Point taken.” Turning back to Dormer, and ignoring her amused look, Buffy inquired, “How long exactly do we have to wait?”

A low buzzing answered Buffy’s question and drew her attention away from Dormer and Faith and toward the ceiling above them. Her chest tightened as the buzzing rose in volume and pitch, whistling through the room and the motor to the garage door opener groaned and coughed, showering the trio with sparks and separating them. The high-tone sharpened into chatter, the same noises that had shattered the windows of her home earlier in the day, and Buffy’s hands rose, covering her ears as the chatter grew in intensity.

“What the hell is that?”

Buffy’s chin rose and she met Faith’s wide-eyed stare as the brunette lifted her own hands to cover her ears as if she heard the voices crying out too. The light above them flickered and popped, casting them into darkness as the chatter became a wail causing Buffy and Faith to cry out, fall to their knees. The side-door leading from the garage to the outside groaned, bending inward before the hinges gave under the pressure and the door imploded, crashing into the card table, toppling both to the ground.

Dormer moved forward, the ceremonial knife clutched in her hand, to take point before the girls. The chatter rose around them and Buffy attempted to rise under the assault, pressed her back against the painted wall for added support as she inched closer to the under-guarded opening. Silence suddenly reined and her knees locked, she stumbled, sagging in relief as a shadow descended across the small threshold and she caught movement out of the corner of her eye as Faith pulled herself up from the ground.

The shadow became a person, a rather attractive person, whose intent gaze traveled over Dormer and Faith, dismissing them with ease. He stepped forward, into Buffy’s home and into the Devil’s Trap. Dormer lunged, blade flashing in the sliver of moonlight cutting through the darkness of the garage. He sidestepped her advancement, caught her wrist and directed the blade harmlessly away from them. Buffy stiffened when he used his adjacent hand to press two fingers to Dormer’s brow line and she staggered, falling away and to the ground.

“Professor!” Faith was already moving forward as the man stepped out of the Devil’s Trap with apparent ease and caught the fist Faith aimed for his face. Her voice dipped, growling out the threat, “I can’t believe how much I’m gonna kill you.”

His head inclined, thin brows rising over blue eyes as he compressed the hand holding her fist and Faith grunted, attempted to free herself. Her mouth thinned as she aimed a kick for his side and he released her fist to grasp her thigh and spun, easily tossing her into the wall beside them. Buffy’s eyes narrowed and she knelt, fingers wrapping around the ceremonial knife and she scrapped the blade over the concrete drawing his attention away from Faith’s slumped form.

He turned, blue eyes settling on the petite blonde and his chin dipped in acknowledgement of her, startling Buffy, before he dodged the kick Faith aimed for his knees and stumbled back a step. Buffy rose, flipping the serrated edge of the knife outward before swiping it across his back and he staggered, coat, cloth and skin splitting under the blade. Faith caught the back of his head, brought it down into her knee as Buffy advanced and he twisted, catching her knee on the next up-bring and spilled Faith on her ass.

He spun, palms flat and lifted to either side of his body. “Stop this.”

“To hell with that.”

He turned with Faith’s angry words and Buffy felt the world slow as he ducked her next few swings and invaded her personal space, two fingers finding their way to her forehead. Brown eyes widened, looked past him to meet with Buffy’s and the blonde flinched at the apology she saw there before Faith’s eyes closed, body slumping against the wall behind her and sliding down.

He stared down at Faith a moment, his mouth dipping at the corners. “Interesting.” His head lifted, blue eyes locking on Buffy. “Why have you not left this city?”

Her grip on the knife tightened and she ignored his question in favor of asking one of her own. “What did you do to them?”

“They are alive.”

She advanced, blade rising. “Who are you?”

He turned away from her, his voice confused as he stated, “You already know this.”

“Castiel.” His chin dipped, the same nod as before and Buffy shook her head. “What are you?”

“We have had this discussion,” Castiel’s brows lowered, pulling together after his statement.

“Right.” Buffy snorted, moving around him and closer to Faith’s unmoving form. “You’re an Angel of the Lord. Pardon me if that seems a bit thundering loony-like.”

His head inclined and Buffy had a moment to think, wounded puppy, before he was distracting her with the talking again. “This is your problem, Buffy. You have no faith.”

“Oh, I’ve got plenty of Faith. Handfuls of it and you should know, you knocked her out,” she paused, frowning and taking her focus of Castiel long enough to send a worried glance to the fallen Slayer, “or so you say.”

“Check on your friends—”

“They’re not my friends.” She interrupted and sighed, “Not really, not yet.”

He blinked and gave her the same blank look Giles did when he hadn’t a clue what she was talking about or why she was even talking. Her shoulders stiffened and pulled back under that look and she returned it with a glare and his brows rose. “Check on your acquaintances. No harm will befall you.”

Her eyes widened with his stressing of the word ‘acquaintances’ and her lips quirked as she knelt beside Faith and asked, “Are angels supposed to do sarcasm?”

“We do many things.”

His monotone reply had Buffy looking up even as her fingers settled against Faith’s throat, searching for a pulse. He had turned toward the symbols on the walls, studying them intently and Buffy felt her cheeks warm as she again noticed the prettiness of his profile and her mind dipped into the innuendo of his previous statement. Her shoulders sagged when she found Faith’s sluggish pulse and she stood, moving toward Dormer and treated her to the same search with the same results.

“You now know what I am. That I speak truth.”

The statement brought Buffy to her feet and she spun on her borrowed boot heel to find Castiel treating her to the same thorough study he’d given the walls. More color filled her cheeks as she tugged at the thermal top she still wore, without a bra, and crossed her arms over her breasts, the knife tucked tight to her body.

“Maybe.” The lukewarm, one-worded reply was enough of an agreement to bring him closer to Buffy, his gaze locking with hers and she swallowed the urge to look away from the intensity boring into her and instead asked, “So you’re the one that saved me?”

“I am.”

“Thanks,” her mouth turned down at the corners, “I guess.”

His eyes narrowed and he took a step forward. “You don’t think you deserved to be saved.”

Buffy’s chin lifted as she prompted, “Deserved? Maybe, but I am just curious as to what took you so damn long.”

Castiel’s mouth thinned as he sighed and stated, “Yours was a sacrifice that could not be undone.”

“And yet here I am.” Buffy’s eyes widened as a thought formed and she moved forward, closer to Castiel. “No one took my place, right? You didn’t trade me for another.”

“I did not.”

“Then how?”

Castiel’s head bowed a moment, breaking eye contact. “A situation presented itself.”

“A situation?” Buffy took the last step forward, invading his personal bubble and bringing his head up to meet her gaze as she snapped, “Did you take lessons in cryptic or are you just striving to be really, really annoying?”

“You were saved because God commanded it.”

A curl of anger had leaked into his voice and Buffy swallowed, “Oh,” and took a step back, he was far too intense at the moment. “So you saved me. Now what?”

His features smoothed and his gaze dipped toward considering again as he looked over and through her. “We have work for you.”

“Of course you do.” She winced, turning away from his all knowing, all annoying stare. “Sorry, I know I sound ungrateful. I just…” her voice trailed off when she turned to see the spot beside her was vacant of Castiel.

She spun, taking in Dormer and Faith’s still prone forms and saw that the garage was now empty of angels and sighed. “You really do know how to make an entrance and exit memorable, don’t you?”

~*~

Sweat-slicked palms caught the edge of the countertop and Faith bounced, propping herself up on the island in the center of Dormer’s kitchen and caught the water bottle Buffy tossed her. She opened it with a grin as Buffy moved to lean against the island beside her and downed half the bottle before wiping her mouth dry with the back of her free hand. “You’ve got some quality rage going there, B.”

The blonde’s head, currently, at level with Faith’s waist tipped back so that Buffy could meet her fellow Slayer’s gaze and a hand lifted to push at the few strands of damp hair that had escaped her ponytail back behind her ears. Narrowed shoulders lifted into a shrug, already use to the nickname she’d been tagged with on day two of her stay with Faith and her Watcher. “Yay me?”

“I’m just sayin’ that it kinda gives you an edge.” The brunette made room for Buffy on the island and slapped the place beside her before taking another swig from the water bottle. Buffy glanced at the marble tile a moment before giving in and a hop that settled her beside Faith, their arms brushing as she lifted her own bottle to drink from it. Faith paused, waited a beat before hesitantly adding, “You’re always a bit on edge.”

The water bottle dropped, settled in Buffy’s lap as green eyes narrowed and she kept herself facing forward as her voice dipped in warning. “Is that a fact?”

“Look,” Faith sighed, frowned and turned away her study of Buffy’s profile to stare at the red numbers on the stove, “I get hell was a bitch, but you should be dealing and you’re not—”

“Dealing?” Buffy’s head whipped toward Faith, voice snapping over hers as she asked, “It’s been what? Three days since I found myself back with the living? How do you recommend I deal with it?”

“Uncorking it once and awhile? Outside the training room. ” Faith shoved herself off the island and spun, placing herself directly in front of the blonde. “You got friends, friends that want nothing more then for you to unload on them, let’em help you and you keep’em out. Keep yourself locked down so damn tight.”

A pointed chin thrust forward as Buffy turned her gaze away from Faith’s and her hands tensed, crushing the plastic bottle as her voice whispered, paper-thin, “I can’t.”

“Why the hell not?”

“I don’t want them to know what it was like. Don’t you get that?” Faith tensed as Buffy turned back to her, lashes damp and eyes glossy. “I can’t tell them. I can’t unload on them. I won’t burden them.”

“B, don’t you get that it’s not a burden?” Faith’s head tilted, arms crossing as she shifted her weight to one leg. “Not to them.”

Her nostrils flared, mouth thinning into a thin angry line. “I know that! Don’t you think I know that?”

Faith shook her head. “I don’t think you do. Not really.” Buffy’s lips rolled inward, eyes dipping toward her lap and the ruined water bottle that rested there. Faith frowned, stepping forward and voice quieting as she offered, “Then talk to me.”

Buffy jerked, head lifting to meet Faith’s gaze with her startled one. “We barely know each other.”

“Exactly.” Faith’s mouth curved upward with the raising of Buffy’s brows at her one-worded response and attempted to clarify, “You already unload some of it on me and as much as I love sporting gnarly bruises I’d prefer you got the emotional shit outta the way too.”

Buffy ignored Faith’s snort, of more then likely amusement, as she mouthed the words ‘emotional shit’ back to her and her sister Slayer gave one last shot. “I suck at the touchy feely,” Faith paused, shrugged the tension out of her shoulders and refocused, “but that rage in you has gotta go somewhere.”

Buffy’s lashes dipped, gaze moving back to her lap as she quietly uttered, “It does.” A tired smile tugged at her mouth and she released the tension in her hands, watched her nail beds go from white to pink before she finally looked up and explained, “But this is something I’ve gotta work through on my own. I’ve got to deal with, without outside supervision.”

Faith’s shoulders dropped in disappointment with Buffy’s ending statement and she turned, ended the discussion on her own terms as she tossed casually over her shoulder, “I’m gonna hit the shower.”

She made it to the carpet of the hallway before Buffy called her name and had her passing, back to the room as Buffy offered sincerely, if a bit meek, “Thanks.”

Faith’s shoulders tightened before she shrugged. “It’s no big thing.”

“It’s big to me.” The quiet certainty in her voice had Faith shifting, turning to face Buffy as she pushed herself off the counter and made her way closer to the entry Faith currently filled. “If it’s any consolation of all my friends,” she frowned, suddenly uncertain of her standing with Faith and corrected herself with, “of all the people I know, I think you’d be the one who could handle the-the knowing.”

“Buffy?” The two Slayers separated and Faith stepped back and away from the moment forming between them and further into the hall as Dormer moved down the hall, toward them from the training room. “Buffy, yes, there you are.”

Her mouth thinned as she watched Faith retreat further and toss another smirk toward them as she stated, “Shower is me.”

Dormer inclined her head toward her charge before focusing on Buffy. “I’ve had a few responses to my inquiries about your Castiel and it seems—”

“What about Giles? Have you contacted him yet?”

Her interruption had Dormer frowning as she explained, “I think you need to understand that if the Council knew of your existence it’s entirely possible they’d send a wet works team to deal with the situation.”

She rolled her lips inward, ignored the slight tingle and light-headed feeling Dormer’s words invoked as she clarified, “They’d kill me.”

“More then likely, yes.” Dormer took a step forward, draped a hand over Buffy’s shoulder and she tensed under the casual contact and resisted the urge to step back and away. Her hands clenched as she became motionless and tried to focus on Dormer’s words rather then her proximity. “I have attempted to contact Rupert, but for the moment he has failed to return my summons. You might need to accept the fact that Rupert, and perhaps even Sunnydale, aren’t in your future.”

A line appeared between Buffy’s brows, her mouth curving downward as she prompted, “What do you know that I don’t?”

“Not much, unfortunately, just that several instances in the last few years have signaled that a great change is coming.”

Buffy’s chin lifted. “Meaning?”

“Meaning, I’m not certain the battle to come will happen here in Sunnydale. The signs have been showing up all over the United States and a few in Europe.”

Castiel’s words came back to her, “Why have you not left this city?” and Buffy suppressed them, ignored them and instead focused on Dormer and her possible font of information. “Signs? Signs of what?”

Dormer’s hand slipped from Buffy’s shoulder to fall at her side, fingers curling against the tweed pencil-skirt she wore. “Signs of the apocalypse.”

Buffy blinked, frowned. “Okay. We’ve faced apocalypses before. We can do it again.”

“Buffy, I don’t think you understand. The signs that are being recorded aren’t depicting an apocalypse, but the apocalypse as in the biblical sense.”

Her mouth opened, closed before she offered weakly, “So I’m guessing the ‘t’ in ‘the’ should be capitalized.” She watched Dormer’s mouth thin and lifted a hand to stall her protests a moment longer and asked, “Do we know when this is going to happen?”

The Watcher’s arms lifted, crossing under her breasts as she shook her head and Buffy noticed that her short grey hair was mussed, as if she’d been running her fingers through it over and over—also not a good sign. “The main consensus is that we don’t want this to happen. We need to stop it before it starts.”

“And how do we do that?”

“I don’t know.” Dormer’s chin dipped toward her chest and she took a deep breath, chest expanding before her head lifted and she stated, “You need to take a shower. Cordelia will be here shortly to take you shopping for necessities.”

Buffy pulled back, stared at the other woman a moment before stating, “That was a quick change in subject.”

Blue eyes narrowed. “I have no other answers to give or information to share and you required clothing of your own.”

Her brows lowered and she glanced down at the blue on blue t-shirt she wore and tugged at the hem, stretching the number sixty-two downward. Faith’s clothing was a bit big for her, but it was leaps and bounds ahead of wearing Willow’s things, not that she’d ever tell Willow that. With a sigh she conceded. “I do, but we’ll talk more later.”

“Of course.”

The certainty in Dormer’s voice didn’t ring true and Buffy resisted the urge to frown at the other woman and instead nodded before making her way through the training room and towards the stairs leading to the second floor and the second bathroom. Cleanliness was next to Godliness—not that she gave a damn.