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Faith the Vampire Slayer, Season 2: On the Road Again

May 13th, 2013 (08:36 pm)
Feeling: shiny

Anyone left/wondering where the hell things could go from there? Well, you're in luck.


Dana's condition has been steadily improving since 1x19 and she's becoming more independent, wanting to make more of her own decisions. As a result, she's increasingly involved in this season's twin arcs of motherhood and Manticore, and was even going to get her own mini-arc to foreshadow the final season. Most of the individual eps never got fleshed out, but I hope you'll agree that the final three are one hell of a ride.


2x01: Two Of a Kind

Faith and Dana under the same roof. A clash was inevitable.

Faith convinces Willow -- or rather insists -- on having Wesley's old shotgun pulled out of storage so they can have it in the RV, even though it needs cleaning and a little work. Willow has obvious misgivings and icky feelings. "Won't it look bad if we get searched?" Faith: "Anyone searches this thing, a gun's gonna be the least of our problems. Your collection of baggies oughtta get us tasered in no time."


2x02: Full House

More of the same.

These two would have focused heavily on Faith and Dana, setting some ground rules for appropriate behavior in their relationship. (Think River at the end of the Serenity movie. What do you do when you live with a psychic, or someone who might as well be as far as you're concerned?)


2x03: User Friendly

Willow takes on independent contract work to help pay the bills. But programming ain't what it used to be...

At the end of this ep, Willow starts working out and asks Faith to teach her to fight -- realistically, not trying at all to compete with Faith; just wanting to be less of a burden, and to improve herself/learn something new. (One of the best parts of Xena was watching Gabrielle's six season journey through all those stages.)


2x04: A Rube I Con

Clips from the hunter's confiscated video in 1x03 surface on Youtube. (Because you can't stop the signal.) And the prospect of blackmail rears its ugly heads...


2x05: Scars

A possible clue to the fate of Charles Gunn.

Did anyone else from Team Angel make it out of that alley? Is there a way to restore Angel -- and what will be the price?


2x06: Come Back to the Five and Dime, Mary Sue

A traveling snake-oil salesman sells temporary "Superstar"-style lives of power and glory to the willingly deceived.


2x07: The Neighbor Of the Beast

What if Lindsey McDonald's hell really was here on Earth?


2x08: Roots? Family Tradition? Something else?

Giles gets married.

Giles decides to marry after his health improves and he realizes he doesn't want to wait any longer. The bachelor's party is thrown by Xander, Robin and Andrew, but Faith, Kennedy and Giles' fiancee convince Buffy they should crash the party. One single agonized cry from the chair: "Oh God!" Good thing Kennedy had all those dancing lessons! Burlesque, competing/flirting with a stripper, and an old Broadway tune:

I got steam heat!
But I need your love to keep away the cold...



2x09: Insecurities

Wall Street wankers, um bankers, need love too.


2x10: For Service Rendered

A slaughterhouse can make anyone long for the Doublemeat Palace.

Faith convinces Willow to try her first taste of bacon; frying it up as Will salivates and vacillates, torn, undecided... until that first bite and it's a Kaylee/strawberry moment. "Oh God." (mumbling, stuffing her face) "I'm a bad, bad Jew." Faith: "Sounds like someone needs a spankin'."


2x11: Tangent

How the rest of the world views Faith. A day in the life of Slayers, Watchers, and just plain folks.


2x12: Ain't I a Woman

Another Dana-centric episode. Having to unexpectedly care for an orphaned infant is always chock full of laughs and angst.

Like River, Dana is "crazy, not stupid."


2x13: Nun So Blind

Like our heroes, Drusilla's looking for Spike and/or Angel. What happens when these four try working together. I envisioned so many fun Dru/Dana scenes.


2x14: How I Met My Mother-In-Law

Sheila Rosenberg's open mind and tolerance are put to the ultimate test.

Willow's 'preferences' appear fixed-permanent to Sheila *and* her daughter states she has no interest in artificial insemination/etc. (Certainly, this 'Dana' girl seems like their daughter, but is incredibly disturbing in her own right.) So no grandchildren -- every Jewish mom's nightmare, no matter how liberated -- and concentrated in this case because Willow is an only child.

Despite herself, Willow ends the ep with having actual "sort of thoughts" about being a mother, at least in the "maybe if things were different" sense. But even though I came up with some nasty ideas for this series, I always balked at the idea of hurting Willow as badly as Gabrielle was on Xena. I know Joss could do it. The bastard.


2x15: Fashion Victim

What makes a supermodel? Sacrifice.

David has learned enough Willow history and knows her power level to ask one of the inevitable questions: If she can convert every Potential to a Slayer, why can't she give every vampire a soul all at once? Because it's a retail solution to a wholesale problem -- among other things, it doesn't scale.


2x16: Dead Weight

David finally gets that promotion, and finds out more than he bargained for regarding what his bosses have planned for the future.

David's higher-ups have been working toward their goal of creating an army with Slayer powers - think Dark Angel's Project Manticore, but with an extra mystic angle (all the more fun for Michael Weatherly's presence, that would have made for more than a few fun lines). I was going to sort of tie this into the diabolical scenario envisioned by Rowan's "The Twelfth Sister" as well as the canon creation of the Slayer by the Shadow Men. The goal here was to spin this out into the main arc of next season.


2x17: Song Of the Hellmouth

I doubt I could have written a full musical, but the idea was irresistable.


2x18: Faultline

The latest round of vague clues leads Faith and Willow toward the crater that used to be Sunnydale.


2x19: Message In a Bottle

The crater that was Sunnydale has filled in with water, and a djinn holds the key. But where does the mysterious underwater portal lead?

The following final three episodes were conceived as a mirror of Angel S2's final three which were set in Pylea.

Willow uses the djinn's key and casts a spell to unlock the underwater portal, creating an air bubble she and Faith can move in. They step through...

Faith is the first one through, and is immediately attacked by a vampire. They fall onto dry sand; she stakes the vamp, but then something else is on her -- a werewolf, WTF? -- before an unseen force lifts her up and holds her in the air. Can't move, can't speak --

Willow appears. And the first thing she sees, is what's holding Faith immobile with waves of crackling energy. A dark and powerful figure...of a woman who is dead.

Tara.


2x20: Underwater Love

In a world. A love bizarre. Everything up is down again.

Obviously, half the fun of these three episodes was coming up with the backstory for the AU:

(cue expository backstory suppository)

In what would have been Buffy S3, Willow found out that Xander lied to Buffy and screwed up Angel's re-ensoulment. That drove a wedge between the three core Scoobies that they never fully recovered from, and made Willow far less confident in her magickal abilities.

When Faith was strangling Xander, Angel was a moment too late to save him. So Xander is dead, and Dawn and Oz hate Faith's guts. But in this universe, Faith is dead (see below).

AU!Tara is more like our Faith, and AU!Willow more like our Tara. In this world, Tara's mom was diagnosed with her illness earlier and got more aggressive treatment. So Tara was older and stronger when she lost her mother and her father couldn't scare her with those old wive's tales about demon heritage. In fact, when her mother died was when she learned that the stories about the women of her family were complete bullshit, and she put some serious hurt on her dad (and brother, when he tried to intervene) before leaving home. Imagine Faith when first introduced as a character, before she crossed the line into evil, and you have something like this Tara. She dresses in less bulky and closeting dresses, when she wears them; practical gypsy sort of look, but more often dark denim jeans and jacket. She's brunette, with a few tattoos, and has a sexual history with and appetite for men as well as women, if not as strongly.

Tara had been going to Wicca group at Sunndale U for weeks, hardly ever saying a word to anyone, finally deciding nobody there had any real power. Until the day Willow showed up. When they held hands during the silence of the Gentlemen, the vending machine whipped so hard against the door it crashed through it and squashed flat the Gentlemens' assistants that were chasing them.

When Faith woke up from her coma and switched bodies with Buffy, she still met Tara at the Bronze. Tara was more confident, but still got defensive very quickly; Faith needled and pushed harder when she realized the witch was willing to verbally fight back. Tara started out trying to bat away comments, knowing how important "Buffy" is to Willow, but the hostility escalated to Tara yelling when Willow comes back. Willow of course was very upset to see this, but when Faith leaves, Tara knows the truth: "She's not your friend."

When Glory attacked Tara and sucked the sanity from her, Willow was horrified to see the strongest woman she knew besides Buffy reduced to a helpless child. Just like in our world, the witch was driven by grief to take on Glory in a fight. However, her comparative lack of experience meant she didn't last as long, and got seriously hurt before Buffy rescued her. Because of that, she was more willing to respect Tara regarding the limits of power...and as a result, never resurrected Buffy from the dead. Not because Tara convinced her it was wrong, but because Tara didn't want Willow's purity to be 'tainted' if she performed the necessary blood magics. (Foreshadowing for FtVS S3.)

After Faith heard that Buffy had died, she wrote countless letters to Willow, but never sent them, tore them all up. But while she was still in prison, Council black ops slipped her a Cruciamentum mickey to weaken her, and then killed her in order to deliberately create a new Slayer that the Council would have more control over. Since Faith never escaped from prison, Los Angeles is still under a magical blackout and never-ending rain of fire, with Angelus and the Beast wreaking havoc. As a result, almost nobody pays any attention to a little town like Sunnydale, no matter how bad things get.

In this universe, Willow was killed by Warren's bullet, Tara the one who went off the deep end. Warren died slowly and horribly. Since then Tara has recovered, more or less, but on a bad day she has no problem matching the darkness of Angel in Angel S2 (killing lawyers by vampire proxy, firing all his friends, sleeping with Darla).

Giles is still in Sunnydale, drinking more and more since Buffy's death. The Initiative is also here, competing with the Council.

Dawn is here, not a Slayer but a young warrior woman, forced to grow up fast. She hates Faith even more than Oz does; her crush on Xander was in full bloom when Faith killed him.

Oz came back to Sunnydale when he heard that Willow had been killed. When he found out how she died -- shot by accident, by some two-bit mage looking to make his bones -- he made a cutting remark to Tara, purely from grief and anger, about Tara not saving her. Or risking her to begin with. Since then (over three years ago), he and Tara have managed to work together for the greater good, but there is still that hostility, and though Tara thinks she might have otherwise slept with him under the right circumstances, she remembers what he said and it burns. What they have is a relationship of convenience, which only became sexual in the last year; limited to cunnilingus and hand jobs, they have sex, they don't make love, because that's how Tara's comfortable with him, at a distance; because they're not in love, and part of it is because of what he said to her.

As the de facto leader of the group, Tara has become a dark Amazon, taking it upon herself to defend Sunnydale from the Hellmouth. Her tactics are often unorthodox: For instance, she has vampires working for her whom she re-ensouled. More than a few of them she ends up having to kill anyway, but there are some who have managed to adapt. But all of the stress is pushing Tara to her limits, living with everything that isn't driving her insane, exhausting her to the point where she can no longer fake it.

And as we open, Tara has taken her crew to the beach to party and blow off some steam. It's been a rough month...

(/backstory)


Teaser: Willow and Tara, staring at each other, simultaneously: "You're dead..."

Both witches stand facing each other, the air around them beginning to smolder...

But wait! Dana followed them too!

Tara doesn't recognize Faith on sight - she only met Faith the one time when she was wearing Buffy's body - but there's an initial vague familiar sense of recognition, since the auras are mostly the same. But Oz recognizes Faith -- as the rogue Slayer who killed Xander, for a cheap passing thrill.

Tara remembers Willow once telling her about meeting her vampire self from another universe. She attempts to figure out what's going on by testing to see if Faith and Willow are vampires. Someone says they should gag Willow to keep her from casting spells. Willow briefly debates hiding her power before figuring she won't be able to hide it forever: "Won't help." Tara takes a closer look, and is momentarily staggered at the level of sheer power -- off the charts, like a Hellmouth in reverse...so beautiful...

Dawn is incredibly distrustful of this Willow, more than ready to kill to keep Tara from being hurt...

Act 1:

Faith gets yelled at for dusting a souled vampire when she first popped in -- of course she had no idea. But that vamp was one of the ones Tara got along with.

Dana's presence further complicates matters for Tara and her crew: Here's ANOTHER Slayer with Faith, and these people act like it's no big? This reminds Willow of the scythe -- this universe has got to have one too...

Dana's memories of other Slayers aren't as useful here, since they apply to Slayers from our universe, not this one. Also, her memories begin to slowly fade the longer they stay in this universe. This makes her more "sane", but at the same time feel paradoxically lonelier, isolated, as though she is losing something good instead of finally getting over something bad.

Our!Faith tells AU!Tara what happened to Willow after Tara died. AU!Tara, of course, has to talk to Willow about it. ("Mind if I rub a little salt in?") AU!Tara totally understands whereas ours would NOT at all; that difference alone is enough to wig out Willow for a country mile. ("So, you skinned him alive and turned evil, but got better. Cool." "No! Not cool!" I was going to re-use the exchange I wrote from my Vamp!Tara drabble:

"I heard what you did for me."

"I didn't do it for you. Or her."

Faith and Willow's presence sends Giles even deeper into the bottle.

Kennedy is the current Slayer. The Council of Watchers sends her after the scythe. And their black ops crew, after Faith...

Act 2:

Without Buffy in this universe to protect him, AU!Warren was killed by...

Tara: "He had some kind of robot in there with him. Or so I heard."

Willow: "Ew! The sexbot?"

Tara: "You're kidding. Was it really a sexbot?"

Willow: "Yeah, it was all...mega-Barbie Slayer-skank."

Tara: "Well apparently, it had some kind of short, and... well, here he is. Or, here he lies."

Willow: "Call me shallow, but I kinda feel better now."

Faith: "Musta been hell on his folks keepin *that* outta the papers."

Willow: "Faith, quit laughing!"


AU!Kennedy has a nasty scar on her face -- a souvenir of her Cruciamentum, that never properly healed. She's completely under the Council's thumb even as she hates them for it and sees no way out.

Tara watches Willow sleep before going out to look at the stars. One of the souled vampires follows her out: "Dawn's right, you know. It's not her." Tara agrees; no, it's not. 'Her' Willow never fully accepted her potential. But this Willow has just as much power -- no, far more -- and more importantly, the willingness to use it. And in the fight against evil, that's something *Tara* can use...



2x21: Decompression

Battle lines are drawn, and the balance of power is up for grabs.

Both the Council and the Initiative want the Hellmouth sealed up.

The Hellmouth's stronger presence in this Sunnydale means Willow's magic is more easily drawn to darkness a la Buffy S7.

Willow: "You know, sarcasm doesn't work if you have to explain it."

Oz says nothing, just looks at her.

Willow: "...and I guess I just disproved that."

Kennedy is captured by Tara and crew.

Willow sees Kennedy, who made a pass at her; Faith, tying her up; Oz and Tara, having a moment over her; and thinks, "This is the worst episode of Doctor Who ever..."

Faith to Kennedy is like Sundance Kid: "Yeah. You keep thinkin', Butch. That's what you're good at."

Interrogation! Faith "bad cops" Kennedy, then Willow gets to be good cop. Kennedy was picked up by the Watchers at a much younger age, and claims she isn't gay -- color Willow surprised. Of course, is she lying (trying to prevent sexual manipulation) or genuinely different?

("You're what?" "Not gay." "Not gay?!" "No." "You're kidding, right? I mean, you are so gay!")

Faith tells Kennedy about Giles' speculation that Slayers were probably limited to "one at a time" in order to avoid the whole tribe ending up under the sway of a few powerful females. Think of it: Two or three slayers, in a world where the latest weapons technology is a pointy stick. (In a post-Colt 45 world, we're better off with bigger numbers, broader distribution.)

After they grab Kennedy, Willow's problems come out more: Apparently, this is the universe where you only lived if you slept with Willow. Slasher movie in reverse.

Tara admits that she wants Willow back even though, blah blah, etc etc. Oz: "I think tall, dark and dangerous might have something to say about that. But I love her too."

They have to convince Kennedy to help them get the Scythe, and to NOT hand it over to the Council.

Willow meets Cordy, who of course flips out at seeing Willow alive. Oz explains. Cordy asks, what happened to me in your world?

Willow: "Ah, you moved to LA. And got a job with Angel. And uh, pursued your dream of stardom with undiminished zeal."

Cordy beams and walks off. Oz (sotto): "Is she dead, too?"

"Yup."

Cordy gets to choose between helping the white hats, or the black (helping AU!Kennedy in rich girl solidarity).

The Oz conversation is just small talk, until he tells Willow how he ended up with Veruca for a couple weeks, thinking it could work. But Veruca wasn't interested in being tame. Oz ran away from a farmer with a shotgun full of silver dimes. Not being able to speak, he couldn't warn Veruca, who was killed. Oz felt relieved/sad/guilty as hell. He ends up crying in Will's lap as she strokes his back.

Kennedy escapes, and kidnaps Willow into the bargain. And Faith comes after, in full hot pursuit...


2x22: Surfacing

With Willow in the hands of the enemy, it's time for the uncommitted to choose a side.

Faith goes to Giles for help, who's still wallowing in pity and Scotch until he finally sobers up when Faith gives him an inspirational yelling-at about how wonderful Willow is.

Faith has a "deep cellular tan" courtesy of moving between dimensions, so the Scythe doesn't recognize her as a Slayer (similar to Buffy's molecular makeover when she was resurrected and how it failed to trigger Spike's chip).

Willow saves Kennedy from the Council and herself by appealing to both the bitch and the brat: "You're Kennedy. *Nobody* tells you what to do."

Will uses the Scythe to perform the Potential-to-Slayer conversion again, just like before. In our universe, this had the nasty rebound explored in FtVS S1, but here that can be avoided when Tara overcomes her mistrust of this darker Willow, and shares the effort of casting the spell.

Oz still can't *like* Faith -- just like our Xander could never forgive Angel for killing Jenny Calendar, etc -- but keeps his lid on it for the greater good, and even develops a vague trust of Faith and Willow sooner than anyone else in this universe. I see him as A) knowing this Faith didn't kill Xander, and isn't the one he knows, and isn't responsible for her actions, as well as B) just more willing and able to move on despite it all. Part of his cool, that helped him tame the wolf. It doesn't mean that he hurts any less. And Faith can get comfortable enough to mess with his head by telling him our Xander and Oz had an affair...

Before they leave, Faith admits that sometimes, she still hates herself. Oz: "I'm glad Angel did save Xander in your world. For him. And, uh, a little bit for you." And it makes Faith think of Angel: HE SAVED HER FROM THIS. *There but for the timing of Tall, Dark and Grumpy...* She'll return home thinking the sun shines out Angel's ass, and more determined than ever to find and save him.

Faith hands the Scythe over to Kennedy: "Remember, this doesn't belong to the Watchers. And neither do you."

Faith to Willow, quietly: "You know, we could stick around. Hang out. Really catch up." Willow laughs, and cries a bit harder as Faith continues. "I don't know about you, but Oz looked like he had somehting interesting in those pants." Willow: "No. We go back and...(sniff) I'll never leave."

Willow gets it together to say goodbye, trying not to bawl her eyes out; tells Tara and Oz that she loves them so much, and to take care of each other. Even though this Tara is so different, she can already feel herself loving her almost as much as the one she remembers.

Oz hugs Willow: "It doesn't seem fair having to let you go twice. But the other me would miss not seeing you again." She hugs him back, and he isn't going to kiss her but she gives him one anyway, barely less than chaste.

As she approaches Tara:

Faith: "I wanna see 'em kiss. You wanna see 'em kiss?"

Oz: "I could live with that."

Scorching smoochies, and Faith is *just* on the verge of stepping forward and prying them apart when they separate.

Aftermath:

Post-lude AU: Our Willow's presence in this world has helped Oz realize that small decisions can have huge effects, and that even big radical decisions sometimes lead to the same place. Willow/Faith also had a huge impact on Tara and Oz, who are emotionally raw from seeing her alive AND Faith alive AND the two of them in a fricking long term relationship AND apparently doing really well, trusting each other implicitly. And when it rubs hard enough to make it bleed, it helps the wounds finally start to heal.

Oz tells Tara his thoughts about decisions. They're still not "in love" with one another, but Tara is finally comfortable enough to actually make love to him. Not to mention, hot as hell from kissing Willow.

"It's been a while. Let me..." Tara climbs onto him, comes down a bit and sighs; moves down, yelps, bounces up and cracks her head on the low ceiling.

"Ow." *ruefully rubbing the sore spots* "Told you it's been a while."

(I always saw Oz as more girth than length, like a lot of short guys :)

Back in our 'verse, Faith and Will and Dana reappear -- aboveground, on the beach, exactly as planned by Will's precise and proper calculations.

Willow can't quite hold it together any more, and a sob escapes as she sinks to her knees, hand over her mouth, a single tear trickling down her cheek. Dana watches awkwardly, lost in echoes of pain as Faith holds Willow, stroking her hair.

Will: "You know I love you. Right?"

Faith: "I know."

Dana, watching them, a melancholy echo: "I know."


**

Next season: The most powerful witch in the hemisphere starts to meet the few others at her level and finds out Giles was mostly right -- they're not folks you'd like to meet. Some more old friends reappear. We travel to exotic, distant lands, foreshadowing more of the same in season 4. And David's secret government project divides his loyalties, until the man with no name is forced to choose between his new friends and everything else he holds dear.


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