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"See, I had this dream, girls," Faith began, pushing herself away from the wall she leaned against. "In it, Buffy, the all powerful wonder-Slayer is boinking a creature of the night. And not just any creature of the night, but the worst one out there. The Master of Sunnydale."

Buffy paled even more, her fingers tightening around Willow's.

"So, since we all know where your supposedly former boytoy lives, I came here to scope the place out," the other Slayer continued, her eyes narrowing. "I never expected to find you here, either of you."

"We can explain," Buffy said a bit feebly.

"You can?" Faith mocked. "What? You're thralls of the king vamp? Vampire wannabes? He threaten your families, your friends if you didn't put out for him? You entertain his whole merry band?"

"You don't know anything," Willow snapped icily. "How dare you judge us."

"Nasty bruise forming on your neck." Faith's hand shot forward and snagged the collar, dragging it down. She smirked. "And matching bite marks." As she released the collar, she turned that look on Buffy who stood still and quiet, her eyes empty. "Should I examine you for bites, too?"

"He doesn't bite me," Buffy finally whispered, her voice as empty as her eyes.

"Buffy, she doesn't deserve an explanation. She has no right to question what we do."

"Oh really?" The brunette Slayer crossed her arms over her breasts and glared at her now trembling counterpart. "Maybe I don't have any say in what you do, Willow. You want to fuck a vampire and get yourself turned or just plain dead, what do I care? But, her?" She jerked a thumb towards Buffy. "She's betrayed us all."

Buffy whimpered and Willow snapped. "Shut up! You don't know anything about her, what she's gone through, what she does to survive day to day."

"Oh, I think that's pretty obvious."

Willow's hand cracked across that smirk and Faith's eyes widened in shock. As the suddenly enraged Slayer lunged at the redhead, Buffy stepped between them and shoved Faith backwards.

"Leave her alone, Faith. Your beef is with me."

The anger turned into a righteous sneer. "I don't have to do anything a vampire's whore tells me to do."

"Don't call her that." Wrapping her arm around Buffy's trembling shoulder, Willow glared at Faith. "You don't know anything about us."

"Then tell me."

*****

Fifteen minutes later all three young women sat in Willow's living room. Willow was drinking orange juice and eating a candy bar to counteract blood loss, and the other two were sipping on diet cokes.

"So, Liam is really Angel."

Buffy nodded.

"And you never stopped boinking him."

"No, I did stop." Blushing, Buffy continued haltingly, "For a couple of weeks. He never made a serious attempt to kill me after the first few days after he lost his soul. We met on Valentine's Day in a cemetery, and I was lonely and..."

"He could have killed you."

"For some reason I trusted he wouldn't even try. He wanted me. He's always...wanted me." Setting her can aside, Buffy closed her eyes against the sorrow welling up in her.

"He's a demon." Faith made a face. "How can you even bear to let him touch you."

"That was never a problem," the blonde whispered back. "He always had a demon, it was just tempered by a soul. Now it's not tempered by anything."

"Except for the fact that he's head over heels over you," Willow added.

Buffy snorted.

Faith was appalled. "Demons can't love."

"Oh really?" the redhead drawled.

Comprehension filled the brunette Slayer's eyes. "William?" At Willow's nod, she continued. "But...but, you're engaged to him?"

"Because I love him. I wouldn't get engaged to someone just for mind-blowing sex."

"So, the bites were made by him?"

"Who'd you think they were made by?"

"Angel."

"Not if I can help it," Willow answered back forcefully.

"I don't get this at all," Faith stated, shaking her head. "I've seen William with you. The guy is nuts about you. His love for you shines out of him. But, I was taught that vampires couldn't love."

"You were taught wrong," Willow replied. "Of course the Watchers would teach their Slayers that demons and vampires are dark and evil creatures, incapable of any of the finer emotions. It's easier to kill them that way. It's a lot harder when you find out they weep during La Boehme, paint pictures of beautiful sunsets, still mourn sisters long dead."

"Every vampire I've staked has been single-mindedly after one thing--blood."

"There's a reason for that, too," Buffy said softly. "Remember when I told you about the difference between childer and minions? That's the big one. Minions are much more mindless. They follow orders, they maim and destroy and spend most of their time hunting for blood. They need more because their demons are weaker."

"A vampire childe retains the complete personality of the person it was," Willow continued. "William was the son of an English nobleman, educated, witty, a lover of beautiful things. Spike remains all that."

"Spike? William is Spike?" Faith gaped.

Willow smiled. "Yeah. Did I fail to mention that?"

"Yeah, you did. He's Angel's second in command."

"And favored childe."

"You're going to get yourself killed, you know," Faith replied flatly.

"Yeah, I know." Willow's eyes never wavered from the confused brunette.

*****

Several hours later, the whole story was out and Faith was pacing, muttering about bonds and sex and secrets and promises.

"All my recent dreams are making sense now. All those images of you as a vampire, Willow." The brunette slayer shook her head. "This is insane, all of it. And Giles knows?" She continued, not waiting for the answer she already knew. "Wesley will go ballistic."

"You can't tell him, Faith. You can't tell anyone. Angel wanted to kill you when you came to town. If this all comes out and the Watchers Council goes after me, he *will* kill you all."

Faith snorted. "Let him try. He's just another vampire."

"Yeah, you're stronger than him, but you're not as smart. You've never faced anything like him," Buffy retorted. "He'll throw every vampire in this town at you until you're so worn down you'll beg him for death." She glanced at Willow who lounged on the couch watching the two Slayers face off. "The only reason I survived Spike's attacks on me were that they were impulsive. Angel is *never* impulsive."

"She's right, Faith. Angel has the means to bring this town to the ground. He just never has employed them--well, not since the Judge--because of his feelings for Buffy. If she's gone..."

"He doesn't love me, Willow."

Willow rolled her eyes. "Fine, he's obsessed with you, whatever. He'll still destroy everything if you're dead."

Buffy nodded. "True."

"I'm still not convinced that I can't take him," Faith protested. "I've fought lots of baddies, even a couple vampire masters."

"Angel is special. I can't explain it, Faith. I just know how incredibly deadly he is."

Faith sighed heavily and sank down into a chair. "We came here to find out why you weren't doing your job. You had pretty much convinced us that you were and now this."

"Faith, that's not why you were brought here," Buffy began. She launched into an explanation of her sudden weakness, her birthday, and the upcoming test.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Willow cried, shocked.

"Kind of busy rescuing you this morning."

Faith's brow furrowed in puzzlement. "I turned eighteen three months ago and I never faced this test."

"Giles says they haven't used it in about a hundred years. We believe that they expect I won't survive. It's their way of getting rid of me."

Willow jumped to her feet. "What? Those bastards! And Angel didn't go and rip out their spleens and feed them to them?"

"Only because I convinced him not to."

"So, that was all that arena and vampire stuff in last night's dream?" Faith asked. "But, Angel was that vampire."

"Symbolism, I'm sure. Giles said the vampire was shipped in from England, a test subject of the Watchers Council."

"And what was that with your mom?"

Buffy's shoulders slumped. "My mom. I was going to tell her everything this morning, but Spike was there waiting for me when I woke up."

"Are you still going to tell her?" Willow asked.

"I don't know. I think...I think it's time."

"So, this test thing is tomorrow night. What are you going to do?"

Buffy looked at Faith and shook her head slowly. "I have no idea."

*****

An hour later, after receiving Faith's promise not to tell what she knew, Buffy let herself into her house.

"Buffy? That you? Did you get your project done?" her mom called from the kitchen.

"Huh? Oh, yeah." Buffy walked into the kitchen where Joyce was washing her lunch dishes.

"Want a sandwich?"

"I'm not hungry."

Frowning, Joyce dried her hands. "You look like you're losing weight, Buffy. You're not dieting are you?"

"No, I just don't have much of an appetite." She reached into the fridge for a diet coke, and took a deep breath before turning to face her mother. "We need to talk."

"About college?"

"No, about...my life."

Joyce's smile turned to a concerned frown. "Is something wrong? Are you sick?"

"No, I'm not sick. I'm... You probably should sit down." Buffy led the way into the sitting room, taking a seat on the couch. Joyce sat in a rocker, leaning forward, her fingers clasped together.

Popping the top on the can, Buffy took a sip, then set it on a coaster before taking another deep breath. "There's something I've been keeping from you for the last three years. Something really big."

"Buffy?"

"This is going to sound insane, I know that, and right now it's pretty much impossible for me to prove, but..." One more deep breath and Buffy blurted, "I'm a vampire slayer."

Joyce stared blankly at her.

Buffy waited nearly five minutes for her mother to react, then sighed heavily and tried again. "Did you hear me, mom? I'm a vampire slayer."

Joyce swallowed visibly and tightly clasped her shaking hands together. "I heard you," she finally managed to whisper. "I don't understand..."

"I know, mom," Buffy replied gently, then began to explain. Merrick and Pike and the gym burning down. Sunnydale and Giles...

"Mr. Giles? That nice librarian who is always so concerned about you?"

"Now you know why." Buffy continued, avoiding the subject of Angel for the moment, mentioning the Master and their climactic battle.

"You died?" Joyce cried, horrified.

"Just for a minute, mom," Buffy soothed. "But, it was enough to activate the next slayer, Kendra."

"I remember Kendra. You said she was an exchange student."

Buffy winced at the accusation in her mother's voice. "I'm sorry, mom, I hedged on the truth about a lot of things."

"Lied," Joyce said flatly, her jaw tightening.

"Okay, lied. What would you have done if I'd told you three years ago?"

"Called a doctor, the same thing I'm thinking of doing now."

"Mom, please. I know this is hard to understand. Believe me, I know how hard it is, but I am a vampire slayer."

Joyce started to rise to her feet. "I think you're ill, Buffy, and need help."

"Mom," Buffy yelled in exasperation. "How can you be so blind? Do you really think I'm just a juvenile delinquent? That I'm constantly getting into fights? What about the blood stains on my clothes? The acid slime burns? The endless supply of calcium dust? How can you just ignore all that? Mom, you got brain sucked by a parasite and boyfriend Ted was a homicidal robot!"

"What?" Joyce fell back into her seat, gaping at her daughter.

"You moved us to the only semi-active hellmouth in the world. It attracts the weird and supernatural."

"I don't believe in any of that," Joyce mumbled, paling as the implications began to sink in.

"This town has an extraordinarily high per capita death rate, the majority of them unexplained or by neck wounds of unknown origins or wild dogs. How many packs of wild dogs have you seen roaming the streets of Sunnydale?" Buffy watched her mother take several shuddering breaths.

"Why are you telling me this now?"

"Do you believe me?"

"...I don't know."

Leaning back into the corner of the couch, Buffy sighed softly and continued more calmly, "My eighteenth birthday is tomorrow, and there's this test of my abilities. I think I'm supposed to fail, and Faith is here to replace me."

"Faith? That girl you brought to dinner last week? She's a slayer?"

"Uh huh."

Joyce's brown furrowed as she frowned. "But, what happened to Kendra?"

"She died," Buffy replied softly. "And Faith was called. There aren't supposed to be two slayers. I'm an anomaly."

Shaking her head in confusion, Joyce asked again, "Why are you telling me this now?"

"Because I have prophetic dreams and in a recent dream you were involved. It was set in an arena and I jumped to the conclusion that it had something to do with the tests. I had to tell you, to prepare you, just in case."

"Just in case what?"

"Something happens to you."

"Buffy, you just said you think you're supposed to fail this test. What does that mean?"

Buffy gave her a pointed look and Joyce paled even more, then her eyes flashed with anger. "No way. We'll leave town today."

"It won't matter, mom. The Council is extremely powerful and has its fingers into everything. They'd find us and probably just execute me."

Joyce gasped in shock and rising anger. "And you work for these people?"

Watching her mom getting infuriated on her behalf sent relief flooding through Buffy and she felt her lips twitch into a slight smile. "Technically. Mostly, I work for the world."

"This...this is so hard to believe, Buffy."

"I know, mom. I'm just...I'm glad I'm finally telling you."

"But, there's more, isn't there," Joyce said shrewdly.

"Yeah."

*****

Twenty minutes later, Buffy had presented Joyce with a much abridged version of her relationship with Angel. Joyce was obviously struggling with all the facts and implications, but she seemed to believe what Buffy told her. Buffy figured her mom was finding it was easier just to accept everything and deal with it from there. At least there was no more mention of doctors.

"You're dating a vampire. But, aren't you supposed to be killing them?"

"Which is why the Council sent Faith and her Watcher here. They don't know I'm still involved with Angel. Well, Faith found out this morning, but Wesley and the Council don't know. They just think I'm a failure for not being able to kill him."

"How can you..." Joyce took a deep, shuddering breath. "I understand how you could love him with a soul. I remember him from that brief encounter a couple of years ago. He was very handsome and polite and rather smoldering. But..."

"He's still very handsome, but that's about it, I know, mom." Buffy pulled her legs up to her chest, wrapping her arms around her knees. "There's something between us, something very strong and very real, " she said, her voice small and soft.

"And he...a year ago tomorrow you and he...and he lost his soul. Oh, darling, you must have been so traumatized, so scared. I thought your depression was due to your father not showing up, but really it was..." Tears sparkled in Joyce's eyes and she joined Buffy on the couch, pulling her daughter into her arms.

Suddenly Buffy was crying as well, clinging to her mother. "I wanted to talk to you about it so bad."

*****

Another fifteen minutes of crying and soothing, and Buffy pulled back, wiping her reddened eyes with the backs of her hands. Joyce reached for a Kleenex and blew her nose, then sat back tiredly.

"This is all still so...far fetched."

"I know."

"But, your crying, that was real. So, I have to believe..."

Buffy gave her mother a quavery smile. "It's hard, I know. You're getting everything tossed at you at once. Giles just found out last summer about my still seeing Angel and he still isn't taking it well."

"I can understand that. You're dating a soulless creature who kills people to survive."

Even though Joyce was simply stating the facts, Buffy squirmed and ducked her head. "Yeah, I know."

"What do your friends think?"

"That I'm nuts."

Joyce startled at a thought. "Are your friends...human?"

"Oh, yeah. Well, except for one. I've never really thought of him that way, but I think friend applies." At her mom's expectant look, Buffy smiled slightly and continued, "William, the guy from this morning."

"And, what is he?"

"Vampire."

Joyce's eyes widened in shock. "But, he seemed like such a nice young man."

Buffy grinned.

"How can something soulless be so polite?"

"Vampires retain a lot of the personality of the human they possess, but they don't have a soul to temper their actions. What they're really lacking is a conscience, but Spike..."

"Spike?" Joyce interrupted.

"He hates William."

"And why does he go by Spike?"

"Something about impaling people with railroad spikes a century ago." At Joyce's gasp of distress, Buffy realized how blase that had sounded. "Mom, I'm sorry. It's just so normal for me to accept their pasts and even what they do now. Spike no longer kills. He's found a new conscience in Willow."

"Willow?"

"They've been dating now for nearly a year."

"Sharon must be apoplectic!"

"Actually, she likes him. Of course, she doesn't know he's a vampire. She just thinks that he's this English poet type or something. And Spike *is* very intelligent and very loving."

"How can you love without a soul?"

"I don't know," Buffy replied soberly. "But, it's so obvious he does. And if he does...I have to believe that Angel can as well."

"Do they know each other?"

Buffy nearly choked at that innocent question. "Um, yeah. Angel's Spike's sire. He made him. Spike was the master of Sunnydale before Angel lost his soul and took over. That's all really complicated and if you want to know more about vampires and the history of those here in Sunnydale, I'm sure Giles could help you or give you one of his many books."

"Yes, I do want to talk to Mr. Giles. He has a lot to answer for."

"Mom," Buffy protested. "None of this is Giles' fault. He's just doing his job and doing it very well, at that."

"Then this Council. I want to talk to them about how they make babies fight demons."

"Mom, please, there's nothing you can do. I'm the Slayer. It's what I was born to do. I don't know why we start out so young, probably because young minds and bodies are malleable, but you can't push it with the Council. They can take me away from you."

At that, Joyce was truly horrified, but still denied the truth. "Impossible."

Buffy shook her head. "Very possible. Almost all potential slayers are taken from their parents at a young age, some perfectly legitimately, like Kendra, whose parents felt honored to give her to the council, others not so, like Faith, whose mother was paid to give her up. Others..." Buffy shrugged ruefully.

Joyce gaped at her daughter. "No one ever came to us."

"I slipped through the cracks, so to speak. Merrick refused to take me from you when he found me, but the threat has always been there. If I didn't do my duty, if you interfered, if the secret got out..."

"And you've just told me all your secrets."

"I don't care anymore. The Council wants me dead *because* I have never played by their rules. I doubt they'd even be surprised to find out about Angel, but that would be the final nail in my coffin."

Groaning softly, Joyce rose and began to pace, her fingers fidgeting with the hem of her tunic top. "I believe you, Buffy, but this is all very hard to take in, you understand?"

"Yeah, I do. It's okay. Just let it sink in."

"You could have been killed. You *were* killed." She raised stricken eyes to her daughter. "You risk your life every night."

"But, I'm built for that. I'm stronger, faster. I heal quicker. And my training is superior. Mom, I can take care of myself."

"Then why are you so worried about these tests tomorrow?"

*****

Joyce didn't take her daughter's drug-induced lack of strength very well either, but overall Buffy was impressed that her mom was handling any of the revelations. They had talked for nearly another hour, then Buffy had retired to her room to try to nap. Her mind was too busy, though. Too many thoughts and concerns and fears.

She had no idea how she was going to survive the next night.

End Trials: Revelations