Aurelia's living room had been turned into an impromptu triage unit as the healthy ones treated the wounds of the girls hurt in the explosion. Aurelia was sitting next to a wounded girl holding a towel tightly to the wound. "Willow, come here. She's losing a lot of blood."
"Got it." Willow said, going to the side of the girl.
Giles and Xander carried an unconscious Faith through the front door and up the stairs. Kennedy and Amanda stood in the doorway, concerned, as Aurelia went to supervise. "The room upstairs is ready for her."
"Good." Giles said.
"I hope we're in time." Xander said.
"Is she ok?" Amanda asked. "Is she gonna be ok?"
"I'm sure she'll be fine," Kennedy said. "Right?"
"Careful!" Xander gasped.
"Just mind her head." Giles said.
"I'll be up in a second." Aurelia said.
"You guys heal fast, right?" Kennedy asked. "You slayers?"
"Yes." Aurelia brushed past Kennedy."So…. she'll be ok?"
"I don't know."
"What's with the axe thing?" Caridad asked.
"I took it from Caleb. It might be important."
"Let's hope." Vi said.
"I think we got punished." Amanda said.
"What?" Aurelia asked, turning to face the girls.
"We, uh…. we followed her." Kennedy said. "And it was…."
"It didn't work out." Vi said.
"It was a trap. It's not her fault. That could have just as easily happened to me."
"So are you…. are you, like, back?" Caridad asked.
"I don't know. I do know I'm not leaving." Aurelia grabbed a first-aid kit and her new weapon and headed up the stairs.
"So, we got a plan now, or anything?" Kennedy asked.
"Yes, there's a plan. Get ready. Time's up."
"I still think we got punished." Amanda said.
A couple of the potentials were standing around the edge of Joyce's room staring at Faith as Giles and Xander placed her on the bed. Giles as taking her pulse as Aurelia walked into the room.
"Is she breathing ok?" Xander asked.
"Still unconscious, though." Giles said.
"We've still got work to do." Aurelia said, holding up her weapon with one hand and tossing the first aid kit to Xander. Giles followed her out and they met Willow as she walked up the stairs. Aurelia led them into her room and shut the door.
"What is that?" Giles asked, looking at the weapons.
"It's what was at the vineyard." Aurelia had to take a breath to remind herself not to snap at them.
"You were right."
"I know." Aurelia hefted the weapon. "I think it's some kind of scythe. The only thing I know for sure is it made Caleb back off…. In a hurry, might I add."
"So it's true. Scythe matters." Willow giggled.
"And, ignoring that, I'd just like to point out this is really quite ingenious." Giles said, playing with the weapon Aurelia had handed him.
"And you say you sense something when you hold it?" Willow asked.
"Not much, but it's strong." Aurelia said. "And I knew it belonged to me. I just knew it."
"In addition to being ancient, it's clearly mystical." Giles said.
"Yes, I figured that one out when I took it out of the stone like King Arthur."
"So maybe it's like some kind of traditional Slayer weapon." Willow suggested.
"I can't imagine how something like this could exist without my having heard of it." Giles said. "Any chance that it might be something other than a tool for killing things?"
"The First's cronies clearly wanted it out of that stone. It's not just a tool. It's important. We need to find out whatever we can. Who made it, when, why? Does it have a name? I just need to find out fast."
"We'll start work immediately."
"Yeah, don't worry, Aurelia." Willow said. "We'll find out everything there is to know."
"Good, because right now, that thing is all we have going for us."
Faith was lying in bed holding the scythe in front of her. Aurelia was standing beside the bed. "You feel it too, don't you?" She asked.
"Damn. And damn, that's something." Faith said.
"It's old. It's strong, and it feels like…. like it's mine." Faith placed it on the bed beside her. "I guess that means it's yours."
"It belongs to the Slayer." Aurelia picked up the scythe.
"Slayer in charge, which, I'm guessing, is you."
"I honestly don't know. Does it matter?"
"It never mattered to me. Somebody has to lead. Let's vote for Chao-Ahn. It's harder to lead people into a deathtrap if you don't speak English."
"It wasn't your fault."
"I'm really not looking for forgiveness."
"What do you want me to say? I blew it."
"You didn't blow it."
"Tell that to…."
"People die. You lead them into battle, they're going to die. It doesn't matter how ready you are or how smart you are. War is about death. Needless, stupid death."
"So, here's the laugh riot. My whole life I've been a loner…. No ties, no buddies, no relationships that lasted longer than…. well, that one lasted pretty long." Faith grinned. "That boy had stamina." Aurelia cleared her throat. "Ok. The point. Me, by myself all the time. I'm looking at you, everything you have, and, I don't know, jealous. Then there I am. Everybody's looking to me, trusting me to lead them, and I've never felt so alone in my entire life."
"And that's you every day, isn't it?"
"For the past 200 plus years I've felt that loneliness." Aurelia sighed and sat down on the bed. "I love my friends. I'm very grateful for them. But that's the price. Being a Slayer…. And being an immortal being that reincarnates every lifetime to a hellish death dealt to her by the man she used to share eternity with." Faith's eyes widened. "Sorry. I still have some issues."
"No, issue away. You've had a crazy life…. Lives. You've had some crazy lives."
"Yes. I certainly have." Aurelia looked up at Faith. "You're not doing a bad job as a Slayer. In fact, you're going to be a good Slayer."
"I'll have you around to keep me in shape." Aurelia looked down. "I won't have you around."
"No. This battle…. This apocalypse is the end for me. It's part of the prophecy."
"The one about you and Angel?"
"How do you know? I mean, you could keep going."
"I would like to, but Faith…. It's time. I've got him back and we'll die together in this and we'll start over. No more Angelus. No more nightmares. No more end of the world."
Faith nodded and then smiled. "Gee, take all the glory! What are they going to need a Slayer for if this is it?"
"Faith, a Slayer will always be needed. Demons, vampires…. They'll continue to exist. Evil in the world will always exist." Aurelia stood up from the bed. "But soon, that evil will be a lot less." She hefted the scythe with a grin and walked out. Willow and Giles had found some information out to help Aurelia and she was going to go investigate it.
*********************Aurelia walked through a cemetery carrying the scythe. She opened a gate and walked up to a pyramid shaped tomb and kicked down the door. Inside, the tomb was dimly by torches, giving it an orange hue. She looked around cautiously as she descended the stairs into the tomb. A woman's voice came from behind a drape.
"I'd forgotten. I'd forgotten how young you would be." The woman opened the drape, and Aurelia saw a very old woman with long white hair standing before her. "Comes from the waiting. Mind plays tricks. I see you've found our weapon."
"Who are you?" Aurelia asked.
"One of many. Well…. time was. Now I'm alone in the world."
"So what are you?"
"I'm as real as you are. Just…. well…. let me put it this way…. I look good for my age."
"You and me both."
"I've been waiting." The woman held out her hands and Aurelia handed over the scythe. "You pulled it out of the rock. I was one of those who put it in there."
"What is it?"
"A weapon. A scythe. Forged in secrecy for one like you who…. I'm sorry. What's your name?"
"No, really." Aurelia shrugged. There was power in a name and she didn't want too many unknown people to know her true name. "We forged it in secrecy and kept it hidden from the Shadow Men, who…."
"I met those men. I didn't really care too much for them."
"Ahh, yes. Then you know. And they became the watchers. And the watchers watched the slayers. But we were watching them."
"What are you?"
"Guardians. Women who want to help and protect you. We forged this centuries ago, halfway around the world. Forged there, it was put to use right here…. to kill the last pure demon that walked upon the Earth. The rest were already driven under. And then there were men here, and then there were monks. And then there was a town, and now there was you. And the scythe remained hidden."
"I don't understand. How is it possible that we didn't know any of this?"
"We hid, too. We had to until now. We're the last surprise."
"Does this mean we can win?"
"That is really up to you. This is a powerful weapon." The woman handed the scythe back to Aurelia. "But you already have weapons. Use it wisely and perhaps you can beat back the rising dark. One way or another, it can only mean an end is truly near." The woman's head cocked slightly to the side and a cracking noise could be heard. The woman fell to the ground and Aurelia looked up to see Caleb standing there.
"I'm sorry." He said. "I didn't catch that last part on account of her neck snapping and all. Did she say the end is near…. or here?" Aurelia swung the scythe at Caleb, but he grabbed it with ease, pushing her away. They exchanged punches and kicks, but Caleb was much stronger than before. He tried to punch her, but she ducked and he instead punched through a stone pillar.
He crowed with laughter. "You're not slipping out of this fight, girl. Can't you see? You can't stop me. I can just keep going back for more. It's like being reborn."
Aurelia swung the scythe at Caleb's head, but he ducked and threw her against the wall. He kicked her into the air and punched her in the stomach before she fell to the ground again. He kicked her in the head and grabbed the scythe, but Aurelia kicked it out of his hands and into the air. Aurelia grabbed the scythe and kicked Caleb to the floor. She went to stab him with the stake-end of the scythe, but he stopped her from plunging it into his chest. Caleb laughed and pushed Aurelia away, taking the scythe away from her and throwing it to the ground as he walked toward her, punching her repeatedly until she fell to the floor.
"You know, I gave you ample warning." Caleb said. "Told you not to interfere, but you chose not to heed." Aurelia charged toward Caleb, but he deflected her and threw her onto a sarcophagus. She kicked him, but he picked her up by the lapels and swung her body into a stone pillar so hard that it moved one of the stones out of place. Aurelia fell to the ground and Caleb picked up the scythe. "I was kind of hoping it'd go this way." He reared back with the scythe as he stared at Aurelia.
"Hey!" A punch sent Caleb reeling away from Aurelia, dropping her to the ground. Aurelia looked up to see that it was Cassius standing there. He helped her to her feet. "I was never much for preachers."
"Cassius." She smiled brightly.
"Are you ok?" Caleb got to his feet and Cassius started to go help finish him off, but Aurelia stopped him. "Ah, one of those things you have to finish yourself."
"Yes." Aurelia said.
Cassius backed toward a pillar so he could be out of the way but still see the show. Caleb walked toward Aurelia. They exchanged blows and Caleb took the scythe away from Aurelia and punched her, sending her stumbling across the room. Caleb pointed the stake-end of the scythe at her and charged toward her, with her back against the wall, but he missed, lodging the scythe in the stone wall. Aurelia pulled the scythe out of the wall and kicked Caleb away from her. She swung the scythe at Caleb, slicing his stomach. He stumbled back, laughed as he wagged his finger at her, and fell to the floor.
"See?" Aurelia said, turning to Cassius. "Under control."
"Well…. at least you could tell me you're glad to see me." Cassius said, smiling. Aurelia dropped the scythe to the floor and walked up to Cassius, pressing herself against his body and kissing him deeply on the lips. After a long, breathless moment, Cassius pulled back from the kiss. "Well, I guess that qualifies as happy to see me."
"What are you doing here?"
"Not saving the damsel in distress, that's for sure."
"Oh, you know me." Aurelia picked up scythe. "I've never been much for the damsel in distress part. But that doesn't answer my question."
"Willow told me what happened and where you'd gone. I thought I'd come help."
Aurelia smiled. "That's so sweet."
"Why are you trying to find out about that scythe? We know how to end this."
Aurelia shrugged. "I thought if I knew more before the end, it would help the ones we're leaving behind."
Before Cassius could say another word, Caleb stood up behind him and knocked him down by hitting him with a cat statue, sending him sliding across the floor. Caleb walked up to Aurelia, black blood streaming from his eyes and nose. "Are you ready to finish this, bitch?!" He swung the cat statue at her, but she blocked with the scythe and then fell to the ground. She swung at him with the scythe, but he blocked with the cat statue. Caleb knocked Aurelia to the ground, then threw the cat statue at Aurelia.
She stood, holding the scythe. "How many times do I have to kill you?"
"You understand nothing." Caleb said through gritted teeth. Aurelia swung at Caleb, but he grabbed the scythe, holding it still, and punched her in the face twice. He lifted Aurelia in the air, pressing her back against the low ceiling. Aurelia struggled and Caleb finally let her fall to the floor. He walked up to her slowly, then picked her up by her lapels. "You think you have power over me?" Aurelia broke free of his grip and kicked him, knocking him down to the floor. "Stupid girl. You'll never stop me. You don't have the ba…." While Caleb got to his feet, Aurelia twirled the scythe and swung it up between his legs. Caleb looked down incredulously at the scythe lodged in his body between his legs. Aurelia swiftly pushed the scythe up through his body, effectively cutting him in half.
Cassius regained consciousness and stood up. "Ok, now I'm pissed. Where is he?"
Aurelia looked to her right, then to her left, then at Cassius with a big grin. "He had to split." She burst into giggles and went to sit on the steps. Cassius smiled and laughed as he joined her on the stairs. After a long few minutes, Aurelia's giggles quieted and she looked at Cassius.
"What's wrong?" He asked, instantly catching on to her now somber mood.
"How do we do this?"
"Stop the world from ending. Stop the army of incredibly hard to kill vampires from coming out of the Hellmouth."
"I don't know."
"The prophecy isn't clear. It doesn't state what we're supposed to do to stop this."
"'Two Lovers Venus souls twined as one, Neither death nor time, Nor the destruction of this very world, Can keep their souls from each other. One born of Darkness but touched by Light. One born of Light but touched by Darkness. Within the time of Light and Darkness, The Eternal Lovers shall be torn apart, And the End of Days shall be brought forth, Whence they come together again. In the moment the Eternal Circle should be restored, The End of Days shall be no more.'" Cassius quoted from memory. "We have to die together."
"What? We kill each other?"
"We just stand there and wait for something to kill us?"
"I couldn't handle that."
"Neither could I." Aurelia sighed. "I just don't understand how to just…. Die. My instincts are to fight back."
"Mine are too." Cassius sighed. "We'll figure it out."
"When?" Aurelia stood up. "When we're in the middle of the battle and don't really have time to think?"
"Don't act so calm about this!"
Cassius stood up and took her hands in his. "I'm sorry, but I don't want to lose it. I can't." He pulled her to him. "We will figure this out and we will start over again. I know it."