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Author's Chapter Notes:
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy or Lord of the Rings. Though I really wish I did. I'm a smoker and university student. I will never have any money

Please don't sue me. I don't own much. Just two annoying Canadian male roommates and an equally annoying Irish Australian boyfriend. The only things I have of value is my laptop, stacks of books and a plant. (Although if someone wants my roommates I might be willing to negotiate. :) )

The title comes from a quote by Tennessee Williams.

"A Prayer for the Wild at Heart That Are Kept in Cages "

I have already been told its sort of pretentious but I don't really care. The quote has always reminded me of Aragorn when I was young before the movies were made. So I'm using it.
1. Chosen Paths

Been given 24 hours
To tie up loose ends
To make amends
His eyes said it all
I started to fall
And the silence deafened
No time to sit down
Just wanted to
Run and run and run
Be careful they say
Don't wish life away,
Now I've one day

And I can't believe
How I've been waisting my time

In 24 hours they'll be
laying flowers on my life
Its over tonight
I'm not messing no I
Need your blessing
And your promise to live free
Please do it for me.

Sunnydale California May 19, 2003

Buffy lay in bed thinking over the past few days of her life with Spike's cold hardness pressed against her. The house was errily quiet for once, all the potentials gone to bed along with the few adults. Her mind wandered over the past few weeks and days, of the lives lost because she wasn't strong enough, over her family turning against her, of Angel, of Spike, and most of all of the death that awaited them all. She stroked Spike's arm as she thought.

She never wanted this. She wasn't strong enough, she never had been. But they made her strong. They gave her hope, a reason to fight and she did. She won. Often costing her more than she wanted to pay. But for them it was always worth the cost. Her family, her friends were always worth the cost.

And look what thinking she would always win had done now. They turned on her; the moment she wasn't putting their every whim before the bigger picture they threw her away. Tossed her out of her own home and chose someone else to lead them. She didn't blame Faith that much, she blamed everyone else. Faith wasn't the type who would ever step up to taking on this sort of situation on her own. She had changed a lot over the years and Buffy had a new found respect for her. For the others though, there was no longer respect, no longer anything. Every singe one of them had done things to hurt others to cause pain or lives and the very moment she didn't live up to their standards, their expectations of how she was supposed to be they tossed her out.

But when things went wrong, and they always did go wrong, they expected her to just step up and fix the problem. No thank you's, no asking no nothing. Now that they didn't have another slayer to cover their asses they came back to her. They wanted her back now that things have gotten worse but they made their choice.

And so has she. When the battle was finished so was she. She'd given her life twice for them, given all her time in between. Given her hopes and dreams and everything else she had to give. Her sister kept saying that she could stand on her own. Let her. They still blame her for their problems and their pain. Let them.

She's finished, done. She will fight the First and do her duty to the world but then its over, Faith can be the Chosen One. That is, if she doesn't end up dead. Again. The only one who even cares at all about her anymore is Spike and as much as she cares for him she just can't fight this battle any more.

Not with him or alone.

And Angel will never see her as anything other than a little girl. The little girl he fell in love with.

She's not that innocent little girl anymore. Years of battle, blood, guilt, anger, pain and death have burned her away. He can't see it. He won't. He thinks that eventually she will be just like she was before and then come back to him and let him make her decisions for her. He doesn't see that she can't ever go back to being innocent again.

Thoughts however were interrupted by Spike shifting and she felt the restlessness take her. The end was coming, be it the end of the world or the end of her, it was coming. Getting up she wandered barefoot for a moment before staring out of the high basement window into the night dreading tomorrow.

What it meant.

Another day of fighting a battle here that she was never really meant for.

Her musings were interrupted by a voice next to her. A voice that instilled fear in most but to her it had been burned away the moment she had cut him in two.

“Pretty ain't it?” Came the voice of Caleb though she knew it to be the First. Glancing over she couldn't help a smile however.

“You're not him.”

“No You killed him right and proper. Terrible loss. This man was my good right arm. Course it don't grieve me too much. Don't need an arm. Got an army”

Turning she couldn't help it. He talked big. They all did. And after seven years of hearing the big bad talk big she couldn't help but feel the urge to snark. 'after all if I'm gonna die then at least I get to be a bitch.' she thought

“An army of vampires. However will I fight?”

“Our numbers swell. Bit then you do have an army of your own. Some odd thirty pimply faced girls don't know the pointy end of a stake. Maybe I should call this off.”

“Have you considered a cool name since your incorporeal and basically powerless how bout the taunter. Strikes fear in the he...”

“I will over run this earth. And when my army outnumbers the humans on this earth, the scales will tip, and I will be made flesh”

“Talk on. I'm not afraid of you”. And suddenly she realized she wasn't Death was going to claim her. But not without a fight. Her family may have betrayed her but their safety was her only goal.

Caleb rolled his eyes at her. “Then why aren't you asleep in your dead lover's arms? Cause he can't help you. Nor Faith, nor your friends, certainly not your wanna-slay brigade. None of those girlies will ever know real power unless you're dead. You know the drill:” Caleb morphed into her form. “Into every generation, a slayer is born. One girl in all the world. She alone will have the strength and skill to— There's that word again. What you are. How you'll die. Alone. Where's your snappy comeback?”

And then everything stopped.

She stood in a huge white room or at least she thought it was.

Whipping around to figure out what had happened Buffy turned to face Whistler in his usual uglier than a chaos daemon hat.

“Whistler” She almost growled as she moved forward and grabbed his neck. Lifting him off the ground easily.

“Hey kid. Good to see you too.” his voice was light despite her grip on his throat. It didn't help though, when he showed up things generally went from bad to worse.

Still holding him several inches from the floor she replied, her anger evident. “I thought the warning you about my new hat was enough to keep you out of my hair. Or have you come to tell me I have to kill someone else I love?”

Whistler put up his hands in submission. “No kid. No killing of loved ones this time. Came to offer you a deal. The Powers got a little peak at your thoughts and are offering you a sort of out.” Buffy blinked at him in surprise and then let the anger come back at the thought of the Powers reading her mind. Dropping Whistler in a heap she replied. “So whats the deal?”

Whistler picked himself back up and put his hat back on. “Well the thing is is that you are causing a balance shift here just by being alive. So even if you beat the First's army its still gonna be here. We need to get you somewhere else. And we have just the place.” Buffy opened her mouth to reply but he stopped her with a hand up. “Here's the deal. We tell you how to beat the First's army and we protect your friends and family after you leave and in exchange you get to go somewhere where you are just one more person fighting back the darkness. Oh, you'll have a job don't get us wrong but it won't be even a tenth as much trouble as it is here and you don't have to hide who or what you are. But the deal is that you don't get to come back here ever again. What do you say kid? Sound like a possibility?”

Buffy stared speechless at the balance daemon for a moment. The First couldn't be destroyed as long as she was here. Which meant that she could never even get close to winning unless she died. Which certainly had its own appeal.

“And if I die?”

Whistler cocked an eyebrow at her question and sighed. “Nope kid won't work. Death won't cut it this time.”

“Why not?”

“You know the rules. I don't get to tell you everything. Even if I want to.”

Buffy threw up her hands and considered the offer some more as she paced back and forth. The Powers woudl tell her how to beat back the army, her friends stay safe and she would get to go somewhere else and fight. Well, Whistler said not as much and she wouldn't have to hide there. Abruptly stopping she narrowed her eyes at the messenger daemon.

“What's the catch?”

“What?” Whister asked attempting to feign ignorance.

“There's always a catch. What is it Whistler?” Buffy pushed. She was a blonde yes but not nearly as stupid as everyone thought she was.

“You have to watch out for someone very important until they reach their destiny and you've got to help stop an apocalypse eventually.”

“You want me to be a friggin bodyguard? And when does this apocalypse happen?”

“You're duties won't actually start for a while and the world ending for a bit longer than that. You're gonna have some down time before you're duties kick in and even after that you aren't going to be the one saving the world kid. You're just going to be one of many helping the cause. And by they way you aren't a bodyguard. You're just going to point out the right direction.” Whistler replied looking down at the hat in his hands.

“So why me if there are so many helping out already?”

“A few reasons kid. We need you out of here before you mess up the balance here forever for one. You're the best we have and where you're going needs the best it can get. And finally, A few of the higher ups think you need a break. So we're giving it to you.” Whistler replied with a small smile.

Buffy stood dumbfounded for a minute and then looked at him with a fire in her eyes that had seemed to have died since her resurrection. Her decision was made. Her family got protection even if she wan't there. The trust between them was forever broken but she didn't want them dead. If anything she wanted them to be safe but to never have to cope with what it meant to have to protect them again. With this arrangement she got the help she needed to fight the First and finally she got to get away from being the Chosen One. “You got me. Now how do I beat the army and when do I leave?”

Whistler couldn't help but smile at the kid. He knew she'd make it and he really hoped the Valar knew what they were getting into when they had offered to take her.


Buffy flashed back into her body instantly. Right back in the middle of the conversation with the First as if nothing had ever happened. Her gaze wavered for a moment and she remembered the First's last words to her before Whistler had intervened. “You're right.” she said simply.

“Hmm. Not your best” came the First's reply but was interrupted by Spike's voice and movement. It vanished leaving Buffy to finally fully grasp what Whistler told her.

“I'm drowning in footwear! Weird dream. Buffy? Is something wrong?”

Really looking at him for the first time Buffy felt a sense of calm come over her that she hadn't felt in years. She knew how to fight the First now and soon everyone she loved in spite of everything would be safe. But most of all she was getting out. “No. Yeah. I just realized something. We're gonna win.”


Just outside Sunnydale California May 20, 2003

The bus suddenly stopped and she jumped down only to be met by the desperate hugs of those around her.

She was alive. But she woudn't be here for long. Then she'd be gone. Like Spike, like Anya, like all those girls. She hoped everyone would know just why she chose this and a tiny part of her hoped it hurt them. Hurt them just as much as they had hurt her. That they understood the cost like she did. Their words were faintly heard but not really processed. If she focused on them she would feel pain at leaving. She hadn't even been able to tell Dawn goodbye.

The tiny blonde wandered from her spot, now scythe free to see the carnage. Giles' voice seemed to flit through the haze as he asked who did this.


No one even seemed to care that he gave his life for this. But one day they will, one day they will understand and one day they will understand why she chose this path.

The group is talking behind her but she can't hear it. Won't hear it. In a few moments she knows that she'll be gone and then what they say won't matter. Right now all that's important is ingraining into her memory those last few moments with Spike and the destruction in front of her. To remember the cost. To remember the amount of destruction in front of her. To remember why she's doing this. To remember the lives given to save them all. To remember faces, to remember names.

“Yeah, Buffy. What are we gonna do now?”

Even as those words touch her senses she feels the pull and closes her eyes.

Here it comes

Buffy opens her eyes to see Whistler standing before her, hat in hands. His smile is lopsided but his eyes are full of something she can't identify. And then she realizes, he had something to do with this. He probably asked to be the messenger in case. This is his way of making up for the last time. And for once she understands him a little bit.

“Got to hand it to ya kid. That was beautiful work.”

Buffy's anger flared. Beautiful work. Beautiful work! Spike's dead. He wasn't meant to die. Anya's dead. What the hell did she do to deserve that? So are so many other that shouldn't have died either.

“I know you lost a couple that were part of the agreement so we're working on it for ya. Can't promise we can bring them back but we're doing our best. We're gonna let them decide. They earned their peace.” Whistler said quickly knowing the look that was in the Slayer's eyes.

Buffy instantly deflated. If they were given another chance then she couldn't be angry. She was fairly sure they all ended up somewhere nice for dying fighting evil and if they were willing to give it up to come back and fight more then she was happy. As long as they weren't ripped away like she was. But there were more important things for her to think about. They were all taken care of. Now that she was free she had her own problems to consider.

“So what's gonna happen now? You dump me through a portal and leave me to figure out this whole new world thing on my own?”

Now that they had their future set it was time to face hers.

“Nah, We're gonna be nice this time. You're gonna wake up there. And in good care I may add. Listen to the lady they're sending you to. She's on the up and up. She'll help you figure out this world before your duties really start.”

“And how exactly will I know when they start?” Buffy asked with obvious doubt in her voice.

“Trust me kid. For the apocalypse, you'll know. The other one, well, you'll feel it. Now I've got to go. Told you I'd let your friends know why you're gone. So just close your eyes and relax.”

Buffy watched Whistler start to walk away before she closed her eyes.

“And remember kid. Don't get yourself killed before the big day.” he called over his shoulder.

“I won't. Rule number one: don't die. And Whistler.”



Buffy felt the pull again.

It was time. Time for a new battle and a new world. One that she hopefully wouldn't screw up as badly.

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