The one certainty Buffy had as a teenager was that the world would end quickly.
She had described it to Faith once as the one comfort she had when she thought she might lose.
The knowledge that she would not live to see it happen.
It wasn't that she would avoid seeing people hurt or her friends die. She had lived through each of those things and knew she could continue forward. But she didn't think she could handle not stopping their world from being ruined.
It could take weeks, months, even years for the true end of their world; but Buffy assumed she would die in battle.
She had never assumed it would be something she couldn't fight, and didn't even expect.
Giles killed the first one at dawn with the revolver he kept in their bedside table and Faith disappeared that evening, returning with a bag of weapons and an atlas. She kissed Buffy and laid the tools out on their bed. Xander began packing up their pantry and Dawn helped Willow start loading the car.
The TV stopped broadcasting and Giles banned any references to the Z word while Xander looked for any way around it.
"They're coming to get you Faith," he shuffled behind her, and she cracked a smile, before giving him a playful punch to his arm.
He howled and held his arm tight, "You didn't even try to make that soft."
Giles strolled up, giving Faith a quick peck, "That's my girl."
They stopped in Nevada that night and Giles held both women tightly as they slept in his lap, the lights of the quiet casino shining across the wall of their motel room.
He never put down his gun.
Giles had explained to their group that Wyoming has the best bet of being a safe state due to the low population density.
"Just so I understand, your main argument for Wyoming is that no one wants to live there, so it should be safe?" Buffy asked, as Faith snickered next to her.
Giles shrugged and nodded, "Exactly actually."
They agreed to try it despite the hour long debate the car had about whether or not cowboy boots are cool.
"They are not cool, they make you look like a weirdo and nobody has a need to ride a bull at a moment's notice," Dawn called out from the back of the car.
"Zombies can't bite through them," Faith pointed out, before being greeted with a strong look from Giles, "What? I thought we agreed that I could say zombie."
Xander raised his hand, "If she can say zombie, I can zombie."
Buffy shook her head, "Faith can say it because it sounds cute with her Boston accent."
"Do you know what else is cute?" Xander asked before providing his own answer, "That shade of tomato red that Faith is turning."
"You are so lucky I won shotgun Xander," Faith whipped around in her seat
"Oz was staying up here," Willow explained as they approached a small cabin, "He was training with a Wendigo shaman."
Faith looked around the forest, "This looks like a pretty nice setup, maybe this could work if Goldilocks thinks it is okay."
Giles chuckled, as Buffy released his hand to turn towards Faith, "I was not going to Texas, who knows what those Zombies are like."
"I still vote Maine, but the rest of you are afraid of the cold," Faith shrugged, quickening her pace to grab the hand Buffy released, "Not that Canada will be toasty."
Buffy pulled her sweater around her tighter, "I wanted to stay in California, but none of you liked that idea."
Xander readied a shot gun and knocked on the tiny cabin door, "Oz, are you there?"
A bearded man appeared at the window with a shocked expression, "Xander? Willow? What are you doing here?"
Willow's face lit up, "Oz! You're okay!"
The door swung open and the group rushed into the small house, Oz latching the door behind them.
A young woman cradling a small baby smiled up at them and squealed, "Visitors!"
She passed the infant to Oz and rushed to meet the group, "You must be Daniel's California friends! I'm his wife Emily."
She grinned wider, and stuck out her hand, beaded bangles clanging around her wrist, "I'm so happy to meet you all. He said that if anyone would make it out it would be all of you."
Xander lowered his gun and shook her hand, as Oz stepped beside her embracing Willow and looking to Giles.
"So, this finally happened then," He gave a smile to the group, staring down at Faith and Giles' clasp hands.
Buffy gave a wicked smile, and grabbed his other hand, "I think maybe we have a lot to catch up on."
Giles had gotten a report of a militia set up in town with a trading post, but they arrived to another empty town with the signs they expected.
Shoes, stray ones scattered around like someone ran so fast they ran out of their footwear.
A smear of red on a doorknob as someone tried to get inside a locked store.
The familiar whir of a generator from a military encampment.
Willow and Xander took Dawn to see investigate a shuttered 7-11, as Buffy, Faith, and Giles took inventory of the empty green canvas tents that has been set up in the center of town.
Faith followed closely behind Giles into the first tent, pouncing from behind to pin him to an empty cot.
Giles started to protest as she began unbuckling his belt, "Are you really suggesting that this is a good opportunity?"
Buffy followed them into the tent, latching the door, "We have been on the road for weeks, this is an opportunity, not necessarily a good one."
Faith stopped for a moment, "Unless you want to go explore more, Buffy and I can always investigate the inside of this cot on our own."
"How much time do we have?" Giles asked, glancing at his watch.
Buffy rolled her eyes before sitting down on the cot beside him, "Xander is in his first 7-11 for like 3 days, we have enough time."
They arrived at the island on a rainy Tuesday.
One month since living California.
Three weeks since the last radio broadcast they could find.
Two weeks since the last live person they saw.
One week since deciding to listen to Faith and finding a small barrier island off of the coast in Maine.
Small vacation home, pantry full of food, and a small dock that Xander and Dawn took turns jumping off of into the cold Atlantic.
"Goldilocks, what do you think?" Faith asked, wrapping her arms around Buffy and resting her chin on her shoulder as they looked out on their front yard.
"Willow and Giles reading, Xander and Dawn chasing each other, and no sign of Z words," Buffy took a deep breath, resting into her arms, "I think this is perfect."
Giles walked up to both women who shifted to include him in their embrace, "Faith, I have no shame to say that I was completely wrong."
She held up her arm in triumph, "I got Giles to say I was right!"
The women exchanged a high-five and Giles pulled them in tightly, kissing both.
Buffy smiled, resting into his arms.
It was the beginning Buffy never realized happened after everything ends.