Back to the Beginning: Onus
by Amanda
Rating: NC-17

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. The characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Productions, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Television and the UPN Television Network. This is fan fiction, meant to be fun.
Date: 092502 - 111002
Spoilers: Read the first Series or you will be lost. This has gone away from the show some time ago.
Note: If it is written in italics it is the character’s thoughts & dreams.
Note / Disclaimer #2: The referenced other Watcher by the name of William Hazlitt, while he was a real person, he was not a Watcher. *grin* Some references to this diary are in fact excerpt from his “Lectures on the Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth” which was originally published in 1818. The copy I have is a reproduction from the turn of the century. I know I know, sounds weird. I used to collect old books, didn’t care what they were about, I collected them for their age and beauty. This is the last one I have (others I was forced to get rid of in 1999 when I sold everything I owed and moved back to Seattle). What does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Nothing. But I wanted to give credit where credit is due. And no, I have not read the entire book, a little dry for my tastes. *wink*
Dedications: For all those who wanted something more, and asked, I really hope this doesn’t disappoint, even though I am damn sure this is not what you were expecting. But come on, this is me, so just wait for it… thanks to K who tricked me with flattery, to mc for always telling me I can, boo who lets me write, and m who makes me want to live up to something greater.

onus \OH-nuhs\, noun:
1. A burden; an obligation; a disagreeable necessity.

+1=2=3=4=5=6=7+

PART ONE

I ran my fingers through her golden blonde hair, feeling the heat coming off of her scalp. I pressed her head harder against me. She responded by dipping her tongue deep within my center, her head now echoing the thrusts of my hips.

“So good.” I licked my bottom lip, straining to look down between my legs, at all that beautiful hair. I groaned as I felt her tongue curl, probing against my inner walls, making the muscles of my center start to twitch. “Fuck, don’t you dare stop, Uh, God that tongue.” Watching that head bobbing up and down between my thighs, feeling the heat of her breath, the scalding heat of her skin against my skin. It was too fucking good. I rolled my head back, closing my eyes. My hands came out of her hair, and I placed them at my sides arching my back off of the bed as her fingers spread my inner lips even further apart. I almost forgot to breathe. Her swollen lips and tongue explored my folds harder, faster, like she couldn’t get enough. She was wicked at this. “Close.” I managed, feeling it building deep in the pit of my stomach, the pleasure expanding. Her tongue plunged into my center, flicking inside of me, the tip pressing against my inner walls. She moaned and with a slurp the tip of her muscle was swirling around my swollen nub, shocking my system, my hips bucking. I could feel the layer of sweat coating my body. She was a master at keeping me on the edge, taking me there, but holding me back, keeping that release just within my reach, so close I could taste it. I had to this time; she had to let me come. I bucked my hips roughly against her mouth again. A rough nip from her teeth on my clit, and I was done for, feeling my climax rushing from every inch of my body and back again to my center under her lips “Ah, oh fuck! Grrrraaaaa, Buffy, I am!”

The tongue that was licking me with wide strokes stopped as I was still shivering, muscles twitching through the orgasm. I looked back down, as she raised her head, blue eyes blinking.

“Who the fuck is Buffy?” She asked.

“Did I tell you to stop?” I growled, putting my hand on the back of her head and lowering her back down to where she could do the most good.

*****

The door closed behind me. She was gone, another in the sea of faceless, nameless women. I set my hand on the glass of the window, looking down at the city fourteen stories below just starting to wake around the edges. The sky was still dark, but the stars were loosing their shine, the shadows were getting shorter. No one else would be able to tell yet, but I could.

I sighed, setting my forehead on the glass. It was cold. Sort of matched the snow that was out there somewhere, I could smell it on the air. I had kind of missed that. Years had passed when winter was nothing more than a mist in the morning, a chill in the air. But in Boston? Winter was definitely winter. Reminded me that I needed to get a pair of thermals to wear under my leathers. See, B would tell me to wear something more practical, wool pants or something, like I could ever have something itchy on my naked ass. I’d be twitching and rubbing up against walls just to scratch. No way. And I wasn’t giving up going commando either.

I looked at the watch on my wrist. I had stolen this off a vamp, what? That first week? I was pretty sure that’s when it was. Up in northern California. Tracking that bitch through the wine country. Ronnie always did have a taste for the finer things in life. Her house, when she had still been my Watcher, been human, just on the edges of Cambridge was a testament to that. Dark woods, bunch of fancy chairs that she never let me sit on. Some Nancy-boy table that she would always rant about when I forgot and set my muddy boots on it. Back then I figured it was a Watcher thing, that they all had money. But after meeting Wussley, and G-man, hell even HS, I got that it was Ronnie trying to live up to something she wasn’t. She wasn’t British, she wasn’t white, and she wasn’t a man. But she sure as hell was trying to live like she was. It was a good thing to know. Made her trail glow like a neon sign. She wised up after Napa though, because I nearly had her that night. But no, I had the good fortune of running across a group of yuppies turned vamps. She got away. Will say one thing, the yuppies were packing a whole lot of cash. Got me lots of toys. And this wicked watch; steel, cold and hard, and it fit perfect, without even needing an adjustment. I looked at the black face, the twelve silver darts. Almost six in the morning, just a few days shy of Thanksgiving.

Four months I had been gone. Took me that long to get from Sunnydale back here, dodging the daylight, running in the shadows, my only focus was getting Ronnie. I was hunting my old Watcher, but I still came across vampires nightly, and dusted them. Vampire Slayer, remember. The little vamps served their purpose, gave me a little ugh, what I needed to feel alive, just a little nightly reinforcement that I was still breathing even if I didn’t want to be, not without B. Those first few days I felt weird as hell. This sort of empty feeling, like part of me was missing. I didn’t know what it was, so I tried to fill it with killing vamps. No luck. By the time I rolled into Missouri I tried my old friend Jack Daniels. He didn’t work. Soon enough I found something that did, at least for an hour or five. Nameless blondes, they seemed to take the edge off the emptiness. But it came back even stronger once it was over. I knew what I was doing; I was trying to replace her. And it wasn’t working. B was my first thought when I woke, the last thought before I slept, when I did sleep. She filtered into my thoughts at random moments throughout the day. I prayed and raged, begging that she would leave me alone. But she didn’t and I was beginning to suspect that she never would.

I looked at the phone over on the corner table by the bed. What was she doing now? Was she asleep? Was she out slaying? Was she thinking about me? Did she ever? It had been four months, and not a word. I hadn’t called, written, anything. A clean break is what I intended, and what I got. Had to. There was no way I could stay in Sunnydale.

I remembered B eyes; looking up into them as she moved on top of me, the last time that we were together. That night all I wanted to do was take us away from the pain, from the darkness. I wanted to lose myself in her, and I wanted to give that to her. But even as her lips parted, her tongue rolling on her bottom lip, as we ground our hips together, as we were both so close to the edge, as I could feel our wetness merging together, it was all there for me to see in her eyes. B and I came together, without a sound, just gaping mouths, panting breath, and shattered hearts.

I didn’t deserve her, I couldn’t love her the way she needed to be loved, and how she deserved to be loved. Even if I could try to give myself to her completely, like she did to me, it wouldn’t matter. Love didn’t conquer all. That was just some fucked up fairytale Moms told their little girls to shut up the nagging questions, like why does Daddy hit, and why was there no money. Just lies. I knew the truth. I could love her until I died and it wouldn’t be enough. Looking at me she would always see the betrayal. She would see that I killed Dawn. I would not let B relive that pain over and over again, no matter how desperately I needed her, wanted her, loved her. My pain was worth it; I would feel it a thousand times, to save her one tear.

I rolled my forehead on the glass window, wondering when I got so moody, when I turned into some melodramatic pussy. I brushed the few tears away with the back of my hand. I needed to stop this. It would get people hurt; it would cost lives that I was not willing to risk. Biting my tongue I pushed the thoughts away. My moment of reflection was over. I turned back to the penthouse apartment, taking in the modern furniture, all of it mine, courtesy of a pile of dust.

I had to focus. The murdering demon was out there. And I was going to find her.

*****

The brush moved through my hair, pulling it straight. How many passes was that now? Twenty? Fifty? I was lost in thought, sitting on the leather ottoman in the living room, my back to the wall of windows, feeling the last warmth of the sun as it descended into the west, my eyes focused and unblinking as I stared at the small stain of blood on the opposite wall as I brushed. That was Slayer blood. Rust colored spot. Nothing of consequence when you first glanced at it, but it was mine. A piece of me, right there, on the white of the wall. A reminder. What was inside of this body that was so very different than everyone else out there in the city, in the world behind me. My eyes could use the faintest spectrum of light to illuminate the world. Eyes that fit the body, stronger than it appeared, muscles hiding until they were needed, hiding until they lengthened effectively to perform whatever task was ordered by my mind. I was a creature, evolved over time, supposedly human, but that was still up for debate. Didn’t I need a soul to be human? I was a Slayer. Between Human and Demon. What made me a Slayer wasn’t in my bones. It wasn’t in my head. It was in my blood. I figured out that much. Question was how? Was it chance that did it? That put something in this shell to make the blood different? Was it something in my parents, passed down generation to generation? Maybe B and I were related. Maybe there was this huge family tree somewhere that started from the first Slayer, and traveled down through the millennia all the way to the two of us?

I grinned. That made me think of a certain book, and how that one vampire, she watched her family, she traced the lines of her mortal female children, and it all ended with one girl. A girl who ended up being a vampire too. Fucking hilarious. Spend all those years, all that time to keep something away, and it just ended up where you wished it hadn’t. Too bad vampires weren’t really like they were in the books. Hell, if they were like that I would be out of a job, and so would B. We couldn’t have flying vampires around, now could we? How the hell would we compete with that?

Another brush stroke through my hair. So we weren’t like the books and the movies then. So what was it that made me a Slayer? Hell, for that matter, what was it that made vampires?

*****

The incense in the room was thick, and would have caused a mortal’s eyes to water. It was all a necessity; the incense, the chanting. She stood back, arms crossed under her breasts as she watched the others walking past her slowly, carrying the items that she had collected and brought back here with her. The small steel box was carried past and she stepped forward, putting her hand on the vampire’s arm. He stopped, his brown eyes looking at her quizzically from under his white hood. Veronica smiled at him, and opened the box. Her smile widened as she saw the vial laying there. Perfectly corked and sealed; the contents red and fluid. No air to age it, to mar it. It was the most important piece of this grand puzzle. She nodded to him, and stepped back watching, as he continued walking the path, getting closer to the altar.

*****

I tossed the brush down on the couch, and stood. I shook my head, feeling my hair settle around me, down my back. It was night, and I needed to go. Walking into the bedroom I flipped on the light switch, illuminating the room, with the large king sized bed, the black lacquered dresser and tables. My duffle bag was sitting on the floor of the closet. I hadn’t bothered to unpack just yet. I had only found this place two nights ago, when Ronnie’s trail had turned cold, and I found myself stalking this vamp in a really beautiful Armani suit. He was money, dripping diamonds nearly. He had the poor little runaways over on Division Street drooling and getting hard-ons, just praying that he would look at them, give them some of his precious time. Men like him made me sick, and they were the same in every city, in every time. They knew how to use money to bend wills, change everything about you. See, when you are hungry enough, you will do just about anything to eat. I knew that for a fact. The second he walked past me, and I felt it in my guts, that he was a fang, I was so happy. I made sure he picked me. Too easy. He brought me back here, and his first mistake was getting aggressive. He had backhanded me, getting in a lucky shot, and my head had hit the wall in the living room. Bastard split open my lip. Well, he learned, real quick. I gave him a crash course in what a Slayer was, and what a Slayer does. I took all of his money, and was about to leave, when I realized. Empty apartment, cold and dirty Slayer. I did the math. But still, I wasn’t sure how long I was going to stay, so, unpacking was not in my future. Yet.

I bent down and pulled out my trusty leather pants, pliant and sexy as hell. They’d be perfect for tonight. I tossed them onto the bed behind me, as I tapped my chin, wondering what else. Go for the whole ensemble? Might be just what the doctor ordered. I removed the black leather vest, running my fingers over the silver buttons as I straightened it out. I smiled as I tossed it to the bed as well.

*****

When I emerged from the bathroom I felt the difference. Face covered, lips thickly painted a bloody red, my hips and breasts encased in leather. Walking out of the bathroom I was the Slayer, ready to go out and hunt.

I never got B, how she would throw on some ratty tracksuit if she were just going to patrol. Didn’t she know that when you left the house you never knew who you might come across and it was always important to look ones best, or in my case, menacing.

“Never knew.” I smirked as I slipped the six-inch bladed knife down into the sheath hidden in the top of my right boot. I walked around the bed, to the table and opened the drawer, taking out the thin stake, which I slipped between my breasts, thankful, as I was every time that I had the presence of mind to sand it down. Splinters would suck down there. Then I grabbed the wad of cash, and slipped it in the front pocket of my pants. I moved to close the drawer, but stopped. My eyes zeroed in on the book laying inside. Just a thin little green leather book. With a sigh I took it out and sat on the edge of the bed. I flipped open the book, running my finger down the page, feeling the indentations of the writing. Something about feeling the hand written words under my fingers made it seem all that more real. This diary of a Watcher was so old the pages were browning. But still, it was something I took from the house when I left Sunnydale. When I had been told to read it I did so begrudgingly, but found, the deeper into it I got, the more I was fascinated. Other Slayers had relationships with their Watchers, all of varying degrees. I would never be one to say that my relationships with anyone were normal, or even healthy. It was strange to read how this Watcher; William Hazlitt, thought of and looked after his Slayer, Vittoria.

In youth we borrow patience from our future years: the spring of hope gives us courage to act and suffer. A cloud is upon our onward path, and we fancy that all is sunshine beyond it. The prospect seems endless, because we do not know the end of it. We think that life is long, because art is so, and that, because we have much to do, it is well worth doing: or that no exertions can be too great, no sacrifices too painful, to overcome the difficulties we have to encounter. Life is a continued struggle to be what we are not, and to do what we cannot.

She cannot see what I am proposing is a good idea. The suggestion that we go into hiding, that we leave this place seems, in her own words, far fetched and lacking in character. With her ignorant years she forgets her place, and that I indeed do know best. She killed a mortal man two nights ago, and for us to stay in this city, and expect no repercussions from the law is foolish at best. Though she and I both know it was a mistake, and that is has been known to happen, still, as we are moving forward, past this traumatic event together, we must still not forget that the human society enveloping us does not, and will never understand the majesty of a Slayer, nor comprehend that while our cause is good, while we live and die to protect the sanctity of life, on occasion a incident may occur.

Vittoria is a most arrogant girl, refusing to leave this town until the local Master Vampire has been exterminated, because, in her words, if not then the Miller’s son, whom she accidentally killed will have died in vain.

I loved that part. Knowing that there had been a Slayer, before me, who had made the same mistakes. She too, had taken a human life by accident. They let her stay a Slayer. HS told me, when he gave me this book, that it was because it was a different time then, that was why she got off so easily. But I sort of doubted that. I think back then the Watchers got it. They knew that they were just that; Watchers. Not the Judges, not the Generals, they were Watchers, meant to Watch, Teach, and Chronicle. That’s why HS and I got along. He knew his place.

I sighed, closing the book and putting it back in the drawer beside the bed. I didn’t have the time then to mourn HS. We found him after we took Dawn down. Poor bastard. He never asked for that. I mean sure he knew there were dangers in becoming a Watcher, but I sort of doubt he thought he would met his maker with his guts hanging out in an abandoned warehouse.

I fell back heavily on the bed.

Every day, it was right there. B gave me the emptiness, but Kiddo gave me this nagging pain right here in my chest. I could rub my palm over the spot, and it would thunder a little louder.

I remembered this pain, first time I felt it was when my Mom died. What a shitty birthday that had been. Sure she wasn’t the best parent in the world, sure she was a little heavy handed, especially when she had been drinking, but still she was mine. She made me, I was made from pieces of her, and so I loved her, and I know, though she never said it she loved me, in her own fucked up way. And when she died, when the cops came and took me away from that shitty walk up apartment, I felt it. This pain, right there.

But after a while the pain went away. Eventually I forgot what the pain had felt like.

I felt the pain, though not as strong, when I saw Ronnie die. Though if I had known then what I know now, I would have walked over to her not-really-dead-body and sliced her throat myself, with Kakistos laughing along side of me. But I hadn’t known, and yeah, I had felt the pain. Felt it with me all the way to Sunnydale. The pain started to leave when I dusted that cloven freak.

I felt the pain in the same place when I looked up and saw Dawn; suspended from the steel beam, her face too pale, her mouth twisted in a silent scream. I didn’t even need to look down, but I did, in a blink I had taken in the violence that was done to her body, the jagged rips through flesh, the entrails and organs dangling above the ground. The drip of a facet, something once just innocent and annoying would always remind me of that moment, hearing her blood landing on the cement, drip… drip… drip…

I had enough sense to turn away, to shield B as much as I could, but not before the pain began burning in my chest. Not before the flash, the knowing that for the rest of my life there would be pain. No more smiles from Dawn, no more laughter. I would never smirk over B’s shoulder as I held her to scowl at Dawn when she said “eewww gross”. All that was lost to me now. The light in her eyes, the innocence. Not just because she was a kid, but because when she realized she was the Key, that her entire past had been untrue, she started looking at the world around her differently. She took nothing for granted, and looked at everything like it was the first time.

So I still had the pain, and I wondered, if like with Kakistos, that when I dusted Ronnie, if the pain would go away again. Part of me didn’t want it to. Part of me wanted to keep it with me. If I couldn’t have Dawn because of my own ego, my own selfishness, then I deserved this pain.

*****

A black-lit sign that said “LEX” adorned a door that appeared to go nowhere. This place had been here for years, around the backside of Kenmore Square. Still as non-descript was ever. I remember the first few times I had been sent here, making my wide eyed way through the bodies converging on the dance floor, looking for vamps. Ronnie always told me, “Don’t think so much Faith, follow the obvious, and you will find them.” She was right. I always found plenty of vamps and ghouls on the dance floors and back rooms of industrial clubs like this throughout Boston. Though, LEX held something a little special.

I opened the door, and felt the heat, filled with the smell of smoke, blood, sweat, sex, all of it, hit me in the face, making my nostrils flare. I stepped inside, and narrowed my eyes to a glare at the bouncer sitting on the raised stool against the wall.

“Five bucks.” He mumbled, and I slapped it into his palm. He glanced down at his hand. With a smirk he tried again, “I.D.”

“How old you think they are?” I asked, crossing my arms under my breasts and lifting just enough to make my already ample cleavage scream at him.

“Faith?” He asked, eyebrows moving up his forehead. Well knock me over with a feather. They still remembered me here. Guess I do sort of leave an impression when I slaughter a gang of ten vampires on the dance floor. Sometimes people remember those sorts of things. I had him off the stool and all six-foot four inches of him off the ground before his smile could fade.

“Shh.” I looked up into his paling face. “Get me?”

He nodded like a good little boy, so I slowly let him down. I walked away, backwards, bringing my finger to my smirking lips shhing him, and then a long lick of my finger. I didn’t turn around until I saw his shiver.

*****

She was prowling again. There was something about this town that called to her, made her demon howl louder, made her want to feast on wild blood. Veronica preferred to have her meals brought to her already incapacitated, or to dine on blood bags stolen from hospitals and blood banks in the area. But being so close, here in Boston, to where she was made, it filled her with the craving.

She was out alone, and Faith was out here somewhere. Veronica had heard when she blew into Boston through her network of informants. Her little Faith always was the flashy one. Killing with an audience, making threats she forgot to carry out. Just her entire presence screamed out to those in the shadows that she was the Slayer, a killing machine. Veronica felt her fangs brush the inside of her lips as she smiled. She had trained her baby girl well.

*****

Human flesh was grinding against mine, on all sides. I let the Slayer in me out as I danced, feeling everything, hearing the music pounding in my gut, eyes burning brightly in the center of the dance floor. I made each movement of my body a calculated one, knowing that with the wrong turn, a misplaced step one of these people around me would get hurt. There used to be a time when I would dance with abandon, not giving a shit who got bruised, who got a broken bone, it didn’t matter then because I was losing myself. I hadn’t done that since I got out of jail, and didn’t plan to go back. There were some things that I could never change about myself, but the ones I could, I would. Like right now. To all of these buzzing bodies around me I was one of them, but to that nicely dressed vampire sitting at the bar, he knew I was here, and he knew he would not be getting a meal here tonight. He and I had an understanding, with just meeting eyes. I loved that power.

I turned, my arms over my head, moving in the steam, as I noticed again the large man standing beside an ornately covered door. His arms were easily the size of my thighs. He was huge, and he was sneering at the kids dancing around me. He was looking for something, just like that vampire. But this guy, he was going to get something else.

*****

She lifted her lips a way from the open wound, her mouth full of blood, tongue twirling it. Veronica’s eyes were feral as she looked up at the night sky, feeling the beginnings of the night’s snow falling on her face. Her hands let the young woman, now dead; go as she extended her arms out, palms reaching. The flakes landed and stayed intact, her body cold, no warmth to melt them. She swallowed the last of the blood and looked down, seeing the girl, with her dark hair and dark eyes. Another substitute.

What she wouldn’t give to have her Faith back. The little girl with the rage in her eyes, the shake in her hands when she finished her nightly patrols. That little firecracker that talked back to her, cursed and used the most guttural language. Her baby girl, the one who was broken and betrayed when Veronica had found her, but she had cultivated her anger, her strength. The plan had been that Kakistos would turn her, and then Veronica would turn Faith, and together they would take down the Watcher’s Council, and then they would travel the world together. She had never admitted to anyone that her feelings for her charge had altered. She had moved from the role of unaffected Watcher to a woman who desired all that the young Faith could offer her. The girl had power. And Veronica’s obsession had always been, since she was a child, to take power and break it, bend it to her will.

*****

“I think you want to lick my boot.”

“Um, last time I checked, that was a big no.” I crossed my arms looking him over again. Yep, this was the guy. He would know something about Ronnie. She never knew that I had snuck into her private rooms when she was my Watcher, never knew that I had looked through all those books, seen all of the toys. My diligent Watcher, the one who barked out orders and demands, like they were second nature, because for her they were.

I had followed this guy into the pathetically named ‘Dungeon.’ Really, could they not come up with something a little more creative? Sex and Leather Room? Horse Tackle Room? Anything else?

“Maybe you didn’t hear me.” He took the cat-o-nine on his hip into his hand and rubbed it like he was holding a cock. I grinned.

“Sure I did, kiddo. Heard you, dismissed you, am moving on.”

“Hey.” His hand came down on my shoulder and I felt the muscles in my back snap ready. I rolled my eyes slowly over and up, catching his, which were hiding behind garish red contact lenses. I wondered if when he put those in his eyes this morning he thought that he might never get to take them out. “I said”-

“Listen, freak, you want to get your meat hook off me.” I snapped.

“Little girl, you are going to be punished thoroughly.”

My right eyebrow rose.

“Hmm.” I ran my tongue over my bottom lip. His thin lips started to twitch as he watched. What a joke. That got a reaction? What a softy. I curled my fingers around his arm, and danced them along his thick forearm, feeling the coarse hair under my fingers. They curled around his wrist, and I pulled his hand off of my shoulder, snapping his wrist back, shattering the bones, and turned him around and slamming his tall body against the wall to the right. He screamed two seconds after his cheek was smashed against the wall. Funny, every time I moved that fast it took them so long to feel the pain. I leaned close to him, pressing my lips to his ear. “I think you got confused. No one tops me.” I twisted his wrist the other way, grinding the broken bones against each other. “Now, be helpful. Where’s Ronnie?”

*****

She stepped inside of the club, feeling strong; the mortal’s blood had done its job. Veronica snapped her long leather overcoat, knocking the snow off her shoulders, before taking it off with a twisting flourish. Stepping from the shadows a young woman took it from her, and Veronica walked deeper into the club. Her eyes moved over the richly appointed room. Walls painted black, sconces hanging every twelve feet on the wall, candles resting in them giving off a soft light, keeping the shadows long, to hide couples in different stages of intimate acts. Some of the rich mahogany tables with the surrounding leather half-circle booths held a variety of customers. Some were drinking, some were watching. There were a few other vampires here, though none had the reputation that Veronica carried with her. She had been known in this place before she was turned, and since she was even more infamous.

As she slinked across the room, a young man came to her side immediately. His head covered appropriately in the leather hood, his neck straining against the collar he wore.

“Good boy.” She patted his head as he bowed and walked with her. “Did you miss me?”

“Always Mistress.”

Veronica slipped her finger through the silver ring on the collar, pulling him with her to one of the back rooms. “Good.” She smiled.

*****

I walked out of the back room, a little more swagger in my hips. Tonight had been productive, to say the least. I knew where that fucker might be, and that was a step in the right direction. Every night Ronnie walked the earth was one too many. She needed to be a pile of dust, and I needed this to end. I needed to watch her bleed borrowed blood, I need to breathe in her dust. I just needed.

Walking back towards the dance floor, the scent of warm skin and leather, filled my nose as a body purposefully moved past within an inch of me. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a woman moving right for the door to the Dungeon. Reaching out my hand I set my fingers lightly on her shoulder, stopping her.

“You don’t want to go in there just yet.” I said, turning to face her. Instead of just looking through her, something made me stop and actually see. Thick soled boots, raised her height, impossibly taut leather pants, a black camisole that painted her curves, a thick chain choker around her neck, skin a healthy bronze, light honey eyes surrounded by thick lashes, dark brows, but light hair. Couldn’t tell in the lighting how light, but it was light.

“He and I have something we need to discuss.” Her eyes roamed up my body and I swore that it felt like I could feel her hands all over me. I wondered if she felt the same when I was looking at her.

“He isn’t in any condition to be talking to anyone right now.” I smirked.

“Really?” She raised an eyebrow.

“Really.”

“Pray tell?”

“Na.” I shrugged, and moved away. She wanted to find him with a broken wrist, and a broken jaw bleeding on the floor, that was her thing. I turned and took my first step towards the dance floor.

“Wait.”

And I stopped. Why did I stop? I found myself turning at the waist, not giving her all my attention.

“Don’t tell me you topped him.” She laughed, crossing her arms, accentuating her muscles in her upper arms, and her cleavage. Ah, the attention grabbing arm crossing. My eyes had zeroed in as she had expected.

“No, I taught him a little lesson in respect is all.”

“Hmm. Maybe I could teach you a few lessons myself.” When she said that I turned around completely to face her. I set my hands on my hips and looked her over again; bottom to top. She wasn’t my normal type, didn’t look like B at all, but still there was something. Maybe it was her eyes, her cockiness. Something about her screamed at me. She was beautiful, and she was flirting. What the hell, two could play.

“You think you can take me?” I asked.

“Mm hmm.” She licked her lips hungrily.

I actually felt a shiver run up my spine. Damn timing.

“Maybe later.” I winked, and turned away, walking quickly to the door. Five paces away, I still heard her mumble under her breath.

“Definitely later.”

*****

Her head flew up at the intrusion of the door being forced open. Veronica glared as she looked at the two vampires who entered the room. Her arm was still poised high, riding crop in her white knuckled fist.

“This had better be important.” She hissed around her elongated teeth, as she felt the sweat rolling down her ridged forehead.

“It is the Slayer.” The one on the right said from beneath his hood. With a sigh she lowered her arm.

“And?”

“She attacked Richard over at the LEX. From what he told us.”

“Faith knows about this club.” Veronica finished, going to place her whip on the wall with the others, her stomach in a knot. She had wanted to finish the game she had started.

“Correct.”

“We think you should come back with us, Mistress. You know that the time is”-

“I know perfectly well how we are progressing. Don’t ever think that you know more than me. Do I make myself clear?” She had moved across the room and wrapped her fingers around his throat in an instant.

“Crystal.” The other vampire answered for his companion who was unable to.

“Kill Richard.” She unfurled her fingers. “Do we know where my Faith is staying yet?”

“Not yet. But we know that she is on her way here.”

“Goody.” Veronica licked her lips.

*****

I slipped in the back of the cab after her, closing the door behind me. I barked the address that Dicky-boy had coughed up to the driver. As the car lurched forward I leaned my head on the back of the seat, closing my eyes just for a moment. I needed a plan, or something. That’s what I was supposed to do. Have a plan.

But I wasn’t a planner, I was a doer. My fist met my thigh as I snapped my eyes open. This was why B was The Slayer, and I was the fuck up. She could plan, she knew when to step back and think. Me, all I had was this drive, this anger. I knew where Ronnie should be, and I wanted to go in, guns blazing and destroy.

*****

They scattered like cockroaches when the door burst open, and she walked through the splintering wood.

“You always could make an entrance.” Veronica mumbled under her breath, pulling her coat around her shoulders. She felt that she was far enough away to watch for a moment. It had been too long since she had seen her girl in action. Faith walked to the nearest chair, her booted foot smashed it, with a flick of her ankle a long piece of what once was a wooden leg was airborne, and she caught it, then leaned up to the sconce on the wall. Veronica could smell it catch fire. “You wouldn’t dare.” She hissed, watching Faith spin around to face the room, burning stake in her hand. She walked forward, plunging the burning stake into the heart of a dim-witted vampire who had charged her. He shrieked, and then was no more.

“Mistress we have to go.” A vampire was pulling on her arm, looking into her eyes pleadingly.

“She is a beautiful devil isn’t she?” Veronica asked him, still amazed as Faith fended off the three mortals who had engaged her in hand to hand combat strategically to allow the vampires the chance to escape.

“Um, well”-

“She is. And she will be mine.” Veronica said softly, hating to leave, but knew that it was not time, not yet. She allowed herself to be pulled away.

*****

I stepped out through the smoke and the dust, rubbed the back of my hand over the corner of my lip, brushing the blood from my split lip away. I was breathing a little heavier than I liked. I really shouldn’t be so out of shape. Only a dozen vampires had been there. And no sign of Ronnie. I scowled as I walked away from the now burning building, feeling the heat licking at my back. But she had been there, I was sure of it. Something in the back of my mind had known she was there when I had first burst into the place. It would have been her lucky fucking day if she had been standing in the shadows to watch. She always used to tell me what a rush it was to watch me slay, and I was sure that the same held true now. Back in Sunnydale she had made herself clear as day. She wanted me to join her then, and I was sure if she could get me to do it now she would. I stalked down the darkened streets, staying out of the circles of sulfur street light, thinking. Me, a vampire? I couldn’t even picture it, though I remembered the Mayor telling me once, that in me he had found the best henchman, I was strong, ruthless, and hungry. He would pat my head like a dog, and call me his perfect day-walker, in a wistful tone of voice.

*****

She flew from the back of the limousine and stomped through the snow-covered cobblestones to the back door of the mansion she had appropriated. It opened, and Veronica did not miss a step as she moved through the rooms of the house. She was enraged, aroused and just growling at all of the other vampires that got too close to her. Using her palms she shoved the inner cathedral doors open, causing the three robbed priests to freeze in their actions, turning feral yellow eyes to her.

“How many days?” She exclaimed, knowing the answer but needing to hear it again.

“On the next full moon, Mistress.” The elder priest set down the candelabra in his hand and stepped closer to her. “All will be readied for the ceremony. You will be clensed in the coming week. Nothing will stop us.”

“Are you absolutely certain? I want this Jonah.”

“Mistress, nothing can stop us, not even that meddlesome girl.”

Taking a slow breath Veronica smiled. “Thank you.” She whispered, and then turned to find her shadowy assistant beside her. “Bring me something.” She said to him.

“What?”

“A substitute.” Her voice quivered. She needed to see large brown eyes screaming as she butchered a body. If she could not have the satisfaction of torturing Faith this night, something close to it would have to do.

*****

There was a queue outside of the LEX when I turned the corner, after walking through the dark city streets to get back here. I was a little calmer, but now I had my nightly itch that needed to be scratched. I let my eyes wander over the cliques standing behind the velvet rope. Long blonde hair on a petite body, encased in frilly black. Feminine enough to pass for B, if the lighting was bad and I was either completely drunk, or as I was right now, horny as hell. I didn’t need much tonight. I sauntered over, and tapped her on the shoulder. Turning I saw her face, very young, but not so much that I rethought my actions. Upturned pixie nose, and a thin lipped smile.

“Wanna play?” I asked directly into her ear as I leaned over, taking a deep inhale of her flowery perfume.

“Um, what do you mean?” She asked nervously, as I stood straight and racked my eyes over her.

“I think you can guess, little one.”

Her friend, a stocky girl with dyed black hair pushed her forward. I smiled, and she nodded. She slipped under the rope, and I slipped my arm around her waist, guiding her down the street and away from her friends.

"Um, my name is-"

“Doesn’t matter. Tonight you are Buffy.” I answered.

"But that’s not-"

“Do you want to do this?” I looked down at her gray eyes.

“Yeah.”

“Then you are Buffy.” I tapped her nose with my finger, and looked behind us as I felt eyes on my back. Standing in the doorway of the club was that woman from before, her head tilted to the side in contemplation, a smirk on her red lips. I gave her a wink, and took my substitute around the corner and down an alleyway. I needed something now, and quick.

PART TWO

The rain was falling hard when the doors had burst open and Vittoria stepped inside. With a toss of her majestic black hair, she had succeeded in drenching my nightclothes as I stood like a statue before her. The candle in my hand had flickered at the intrusion of wind and moisture, but fought to continue its consummation of the air about us. Her face was drawn; the sparkle in her eye that once had been her brightest feature was gone. I asked what was the matter, what caused her to enter my private home at such an hour, in such a state. Her tightlipped reply was;

“Watcher, I have killed a man.”

Falling to her knees her deceivingly strong hands clutched at me, bruising my flesh I would find out later. Her almond eyes looked up in pleading supplication as she without tears, continued.

“He came from nowhere, and yet everywhere. His body cloaked in the same guise as the vampire I was hunting. He was there, and I plunged my stake into his chest, feeling his flesh split and his blood bubble onto these hands. Watcher I killed a man. I betrayed all convention. Please be merciful and take my life more swiftly than I took his.”

Prying her fingers from me, I kneeled with her, telling her, in no uncertain terms that taking a human life, while frowned upon, was not uncommon. She had become enraged, shouting at me that it should be uncommon. That it was the Slayers duty to protect everyday humans, ensuring that they lived in safety. She could not be allowed to live.

“Did you maliciously take this man’s life?” I inquired, when her violence seemed to subside, and she stood amid the ruin of the once lavishly appointed sitting room.

“Of course not.” She scoffed, sitting heavily, resting her head on the back of the chair, the chair she adored with its ornate leather covering.

“It was an accident, then, a terrible mistake true. But, Vittoria, you can not be expected to no falter, to not err in your quest.”

“Is this true, Watcher?” She asked, finally allowing the tears to settle in her trembling eyes.

“You are still human, and you shall err.” I offered, and watched my charge emotionally release the tension her strong body was feeling. I knew then that my Slayer and I would have a long way to go, before she accepted this accident. For the remainder of this night I allowed the fifteen-year-old girl inside of her to cry.

I closed my eyes, leaning my head back against the headboard, and with a sigh though thought back to that night. The night I killed Allen Finch. My thoughts had been on everything but slaying. I had been thinking about earlier in the night, dancing with B, I was thinking about what happened in the alley between us, kissing her for the first time, thinking over and over how my luck was non-existent with Dead-Boy cutting in, right as I was about to touch her. So my thoughts were on that, wanting more of it, then I was thinking about how angry I was that she had just left me for him. I had thought for sure she had been as into it as I was. Now I knew that she was, but she was just afraid. But back then I was too pissed thinking she just turned away from me when her man had called. Then with the fat fuck we were looking for, and the order of –

“Fuck, that night was a mess.” I groaned out, sitting up. I had woken from my normal nightmare a few hours ago, and had opened the Diary and read through it to clear my mind, to get the trembling out of my hands. The words had a way of doing that for me, showing me that I wasn’t alone in all the mistakes that I had made. Though I knew that Vittoria, she was a Slayer like B. She had been the one with the entire burden on her shoulders. I never knew what that felt like. I always knew that if I failed that B would be standing there, she would take over the fight, and good would triumph over evil. I didn’t need to think about the burden of our calling. I wasn’t the Chosen One. I was chosen to sit the bench. Why the hell else was I Watcher-less again? I knew they could find me, the Council was always able to find me, even when I was a run away, Ronnie had found me. Before I knew I was Chosen, she had found me on that beach. So where were they? Waiting for something, maybe? Or was this their way of letting me know that I was no longer needed, that with the trail of dead behind me it wasn’t worth sending someone else.

*****

The papers fluttered as he dropped them a few inches to the oak desk he sat behind. Rubbing his temple, and tilting his head he looked to his colleague sitting in the soft leather chair before him. This was a very thorough report, but still it left some doubt in his mind. In their habit his fingers created a steeple, much like that to the church framed in the leaded glass windows behind him, her on the compound.

The report was as he feared; clear, concise, and proving beyond a shadow of doubt that there was no blame to be laid before the Rogue Slayer. She was cleared of all charges in the deaths of Holburn Strand and Dawn Summers. His fingers tips tapped together the underlining beat of his favorite Sonata, something his mind played for him when tough decisions began to stress his mind. With a sigh, Quinten Travers looked across his desk to the young Council Member who had traveled to Sunnydale and investigated the deaths and the subsequent disappearance of Faith.

“It appears that this case is closed then.”

“Yes Sir.” The young man nodded enthusiastically.

“We need to find her.”

“Boston.”

“Pardon?”

“Knowing her past history, and that of this vampire, they are both heading towards Boston.” The young man was on the edge of his seat.

“And I assume you would like to continue with your investigation in New England?”

The young man just nodded with a grin.

“Report to me daily.”

*****

The room around me was starting to turn a coppery orange. I flipped through the Diary, looking for something specific.

My illness has been progressing, making it nearly impossible for me to assist in the training of my young charge. Though I am confident that once this journey by sea is complete that I will once again regain my composure. Vittoria has been quite content to have this free time. There is nothing unholy on this ship with us, and this allows her a rest. Diligently she spends her days with me in our chambers, beneath the decks, reading out loud to me some of the other Watcher Diaries that I cherish and have been passed down to me from the High Council. She is learning that others have lived with this gift as she, and in her youth and exuberance her cheeks flush as she recounts their tales. It gives her a sense of belonging, knowing that though for this life she is the Chosen, she is the one who will stand alone against the dark, she is not truly alone. Generations came before with Slayers walking the earth, and when she passes more will follow. Today she deliberated at length on what a future Slayer would be like, if this Slayer would travel the world at a brisker rate of speed than this vessel that is moving us across the Adriatic Sea. If this future girl would come from a large family such as she had. How long others would live, and if they would make the same mistakes that had befallen her.

“When will there no longer be a need for Slayers?” She had asked at one point, coming out of her meditative state.

“That is hard to say, Vittoria.” I responded honestly.

“Well I shall do my very best to rid the world of darkness.” She professed, the look on her face one of steely determination, as she left me alone. I knew she was heading up to the deck, to watch the closing of the day. Since I retrieved my charge from her family in the outskirts of Turin, Italy, she had watched every sunset. She watched them in Paris, in London, in Milan, in the arid lands of the lower continent. When I once asked what her fascination was with this time of evening she replied with a smile;

“I can feel them coming alive, and in turn, I can feel the Slayer coming alive in me.”

She had it right. Each night I could feel it. Just like I did when I was in prison. Even locked away in solitary, no window, I still knew when the sun fell. I could feel it in my blood. And I was feeling it right now.

I kicked back the blankets and slipped out of the bed, stepping over my clothes from the night before that littered the floor from the bathroom to the bed.

*****

“And where is my baby girl hunting tonight?” Veronica asked as she sat at the head of the table.

“Sighting reported in Cambridge.” Her shadowy assistant replied. “She started early tonight.”

“Good for her.” Veronica reach out to the center of the table to run her fingers through the long brown hair of the girl that lay before her, bound by chains.

*****

The snow had stopped, and now it was just cold, painfully, annoyingly cold. Even for me. The heat and the adrenaline I felt earlier from slaying was gone. It had been a few hours since I dusted two vamps close to where I was staying. I didn’t know why I found myself walking, and not strolling, but walking with purpose and speed. I should have known this is where I would end up. I had been avoiding it for the week that I had been back in Boston. Maybe reading the Diary and seeing that one word triggered something. Six letter word that seeped into my head.

I pulled my leather coat tighter around my body as I looked up at the tenement building along this dark corner of E Street. The lights on the second floor apartment were on, and I wondered if my stepfather was still inside that shabby three room walk up, the one he moved into and claimed as his own.

I wondered if he was still alive. It’d been nearly six years since I snuck out of this place in the middle of the night. Waiting up in my room, my backpack full of everything a fifteen year old thought she would need to live in the world. Consisted of a couple comics, tooth brush, some makeup, couple shirts, and underwear. I had it all wrong. If I had half a brain I would have gotten into their stash and taken that with me. Could have made some money at least. But I thought I knew best. The bag was under the bed, and I sat, knees under my chin listening. They fought for an hour when he got home. There was nothing left in the place to smash, so there was just the sounds of shouts, a few cracks of skin hitting skin. The shared wall of our bedrooms shook twice as a body was slammed against it, and then there was the making up. Guttural groans, moans, the new bitch calling out to a God that I knew couldn’t exist. The silence had come soon after his sputtering climax, a sound I knew too well, a sound that made me hide my face in my hands, and steeled my resolve again. I would never have to see his red face over me, feel the pain of his weight forcing my legs open. I was going to be free, as free as my dead mother. That had been the motivation as I sat in the silence for an hour, and then slipped out of the room, moved past the stained couch, the cigarette burns in the carpet. I unlatched the door, and I was free. I never turned back.

A figure moved past the window, but I couldn’t tell who it was, what it was. Just a shadow. I wanted to cross the street, climb those stairs and kick in the door. I wanted him to be there. I wanted him to see what I had become. I wanted him to get on her knees in front of me and beg forgiveness. I wanted him to apologize. I wanted him to hurt. I wanted him to have to carry scars around for the rest of his life, a map detailed and laid out by me, just like I had courtesy of him.

I was thinking earlier about the night I killed Finch, and wondering if that was when my life started to go to hell, and I knew, without a doubt that it wasn’t. I started on this road a long time before I messed up and staked him by mistake. I think my road to evil and hell all started there, in that apartment with that woman. The day I was born was the day I took a step down the wrong path. Being born to her. A woman without empathy, she was selfish to her core, living to please herself and whatever man happened to be in her life at the time. No time for me, never was. Little Faithy didn’t matter. All that mattered was the next fix, the next cock.

It was her fault my dad was dead. He had gotten into that fight, outside O’Shaunessey Pub, fighting over her. We had been minding our own business, coming back from Fenway Park, just a day of me and him, eating hot dogs, cracking peanuts in their shells, joining the roar of the crowds. I was happy. Though, I thought with a smile, I always was happy when I was with my dad. He just had the ability to bring a smile to my lips. And he was doing that as we were walking back home. Then someone said something, I wasn’t even sure what, but my dad was after this guy down the alley before I knew what was happening. He was screaming and punching out at this guy. I remembered following them into the alley, hearing dad defend my mother, as he struck out, blow after blow. He never saw the gun, I don’t even think he heard the shot. He was blinking as I ran to him, the other guy taking off. I remember the feeling of blood on my hands as I pressed my tiny hands against his stomach. And I remembered him telling me to take care of my mother, that he loved her and me. Then he was gone. And I was alone. And that fucking bitch of a mother didn’t grieve, didn’t hold his memory in reverence. She started drinking, and screwing, and bringing men home, to my dad’s bed. That was my curse, being her daughter. Watching her fill her body with everything after he was gone, living numb and avoiding reality, the pain of it.

There was nothing more here, no redemption, no purifying talk, no making it all better. No hearing him apologize for raping me, for filling my mom full of cheap whiskey and heroine. It just was. No going back, no changing it.

I twisted around and started walking back to Kenmore Square.

*****

I was sipping a coke at the bar. When I came in I noticed a few looks in my direction from a couple of waitresses, and the one little vampire who liked this place had vacated his stool and rushed out the side door. Not sure why I came back here. Granted not the smartest thing I had ever done, Dicky could bust out of the back room with a shotgun or something. Pay back for me snapping his bones like toothpicks. Part of me was wishing that he would walk out that door and stop it all. The voices in my head, the pain and emptiness in my chest. Just to have it stop.

I sighed, letting my eyes move over the dance floor, seeing startling white. I moved my eyes back, settling on her. There she was again. She was leaning against a tower of speakers, her arms crossed, talking to a little Goth girl. I felt my head cock to the side, watching their interaction. The little pasty face reached her hand out and set it on the strong bronze arm, which moved slightly away. She said something, and the Goth turned and sulked away. Alone now she looked up, across the club, and locked her gaze on mine. I doubted she could really see me well, but I could see her as well as if she was standing a foot away from me. Her brows furrowed, lightly squinting her light brown eyes. It made her look soft, despite the armor of leather that encased her body tonight.

I spun on the stool to face the bartender. I waved him over.

“Another?” He asked.

“Yeah.” I set a fiver down. He set the fresh coke in front of me. “Where’s Di- Richard?” I asked, taking a sip.

“You a client?” He asked.

“Could say that.” I winked.

“I heard he got his ass kicked, and then left.” He shrugged.

“You weren’t working last night?” I finished the drink as I felt someone coming up on my right, getting a little too close to my personal space.

“Naw, I have Wednesdays off.”

“Thanks anyway.” I said turning to see who the hell thought they could stand so close to me.

“Hey, Faith. Didn’t expect you to come into a place like this.” Said a blonde girl. Damn, she knew me, but which one was she? I knew I had her; she fit the mold, red vinyl pants, soft silk shirt, long golden blonde hair.

I just looked at her, bored.

"Glad I got to see you again, I know you were having a bad night, no one has ever asked me to leave-"

I slipped off the stool and started walking away, feeling her following behind me, like a puppy. I walked around the back of the dance floor, before spinning around and pinning her against the wall. I had her hands out away from her body, painfully on the wall.

“What?”

“Did I talk to you? Did I ask you to follow?”

“N-n-no.”

“What was the last thing I told you?” I sneered, pressing my body against hers.

“Get the fuck out?” She stammered.

“But you want more, don’t you?” I licked her lips, and felt her heart pick up. Girls like this were always trouble. They wanted to be the ‘one’ to fix our dark and damaged souls.

Rrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiggghhhttt

I slipped my thigh roughly between her legs and pressed up, her breath hitched sharply.

“You just want me to fuck you again, right? You want to feel this body against yours, using you right?”

“Yes…” she moaned, then shook her head. “No, I mean, no. Faith I thought we had a connection.”

I laughed, stepping back from her. “Are you kidding? Tell me you are kidding.” I crossed my arms. “I don’t even know your name, and you are picking out our china patterns aren’t you? Give me a break. It was nothing.” I sneered she looked so desperate. I heard the heavy footfalls coming up from beside me, and knew it was her.

“Jess, run along. You know better than to think that you can play with the big girls.” A buttery voice said from beside me. I could see her out of the corner of my eye, adopting my stance. I looked back to the blonde, and her bottom lip that quivered, then with sagged shoulders she walked away.

“I didn’t need help.” I said, as she walked over to the wall and leaned against it, looking at me like she had last night, like her eyes were actually touching me.

“I could see that. She was bothering me.”

“Well, then, I suppose that’s alright.” I stepped closer to her, breathing in the soft scent of her perfume, mixed with leather, and sweat. The lights from the dance floor highlighted her cheekbones, the slope of her nose. There were bright flashes of light in her eyes. I set my palm on the wall, beside her head, leaning a little closer, as the music around us slowed. “Bothering you huh?”

“Seems like you and I had some unfinished business.” She offered, her voice having dropped lower, coming out in a sultry melody.

“Did we?” I brushed my nose along her cheek, smelling her skin deeply, and the woman inside me rolled her eyes in want. But there was no way that I could even for a moment pretend this woman was B.

“Mm hmm.” I heard the leather of her tight vest creak as she shifted against the wall. I leaned back our brown eyes locking, and I was pretty sure they both were matched in their intensity even though the shades differed.

I nodded my head towards the door, and then pushed off the wall, walking away. For the first time in a very long time I felt something in my stomach, a nervous twitch. This was different. I wanted her to follow me, I wanted to know what those lips tasted like, what her skin felt like under my fingers. I wanted to know, not pretend she was someone else. And that scared me a little. Stepping out the door, I felt the cold of the night air around me, and lifted my arm for a cab across the street. It started and made and illegal u-turn. It stopped in front of me, and I opened the back door as I felt her hand move over the small of my back before she slipped inside of the car. I followed and closed the door, gave the driver the address, and then turned to look at her with a cocked brow.

She looked smaller sitting down. Her hand was on the seat between us, and I knew it would fit inside of mine. I looked back up at her face that she was keeping masked.

“Listen if you don’t want”- I started to give her an out. This wasn’t my normal type of date.

“Who said I don’t want?” She asked.

“Not me.” I grinned, leaning forward, brushing my lips over her ear. “I don’t do the cuddly make love bullshit. I don’t do anything but fuck. I want us to be clear on that.”

“Sounds perfect to me.” She said, her hand cupping the back of my neck. I let my fingers lightly skim over the skin of her arm, up to her hand, and removed it. I moved, so our faces were an inch apart. I felt my breathing already picking up, and hers was doing the same.

NOT NOW!

“I need to make a stop. But,” I leaned forward and brushed my lips over hers, “hold that thought.” Her skin was so warm. “Stop the car!” I called out, making both her and the driver jump in their seats. I felt the twinge inside. There was a vampire, right here. The cab came to a jerking stop, and I looked at her with a wink, then turned to look out the window.

“What is it?” She asked looking past me.

“Something.” I was busy casing the place with my eyes. The cramps were tickling at me, so I knew there was one out there. Why couldn’t I just ignore it, why did I have to get out of the car now?

“Something huh? Like an alley cat? Or maybe some mugger, and you are like this super hero fighting the good fight, hiding behind this sexy bad girl image”- I looked over my shoulder at her. My eyes must have shown her something because she stopped talking, and her eyes rounded a little. If there was a vampire here there was no way I could take her with me. She was just some random human. I knocked my head on the glass lightly, what the fuck had I been thinking?

She wasn’t my type, and I had no idea why I was taking her home, she wasn’t a replacement, I couldn’t pretend, and now I couldn’t shirk my duty. Damnit I was an idiot.

As her hand touched my shoulder gently I felt a low jolt shooting through my body. Just some weird emotional reaction, I guessed, and turned to look at her, then her hand, and her again. She got the message, withdrawing her hand. This was not the time to be touching me. My head was spinning and dipping. I could still feel the pull, it was out there somewhere, and I needed to be. Now just what to do with her.

“I can wait here, meter running.” She grinned, before letting it slip just a little. “I won’t go anywhere, and if it gets weird, I’ll tell him to drive away.”

I nodded, and slipped out of the car. I walked through the falling snow. When I got to the jaws of the alley I turned and looked at her. Brown eyes were looking out at me. How the hell did she know what I was thinking?

*****

He was holding the young man’s arms against the wall, as he teased and licked the neck that was exposed before him. The taste of salt, life danced in his mouth as he felt his face morph.

A fractured pain filled his shoulder and he was tossed across the alley, feeling the bricks cracking along with a few of his ribs. With a howl he opened his eyes to see a vision standing before him.

The moon was released from the clouds above, and its beams danced on loose and wild hair, highlighting the aquiline nose with the flaring nostrils, making the black eyes glaring at him shimmer, catching on the tight leather jacket. Her hands were at her sides, balled into fists.

“Angel.” He muttered, unable to stop himself, overcome by the ferocious beauty he saw before him. Full red lips sneered more than smiled, as with a flick of the right wrist a long stake fisted, and raised.

“Of death maybe.”

“Slayer.” He closed his eyes as the fist connected with his face, hearing his own cheekbone snapping under her strength. He knew he was not long for this world; feeling her sparking power, smelling the rage coming off of her skin. He resigned, not even fighting back.

*****

I walked over a manhole and it’s steam cloud. Coming through on the other side I stopped. The cab was sitting there, idling, and the door opened. The girl looked up at me.

“Come on.” She said.

Well, this was a surprise. I hadn’t thought she was still going to be out here, actually waiting. I got in the back, slamming the door, and the cab took off again.

“You stayed.”

“Well, you did sort of offer something that I would be a fool to refuse.” She replied with a smile.

“Lucky me.” I cupped her face in my hands, grateful for the warmth of her flesh as I leaned forward, capturing her soft lips with mine.

*****

Veronica was pacing. Only a few more days and the world would be hers. But it was more than that tickling at the edges of her mind, making even her inhuman stomach clench with apprehension. There was one thing in this world she wanted, and in a few days there would be no stopping her from getting it. She knew that Faith could, and more than likely would refuse her offer to become what Veronica was, but she would then be able to drain the Slayer, feel the body breaking, tasting the rich blessed blood rolling over her tongue. She would have Faith one way or another, and she would have her soon.

*****

Ah, look, she thought that she had this all figured out.

I looked up at her as she walked across the living room, a slight smirk on her lips, a swagger to her hips. I was going to love seeing that smirk fall. Her honey eyes were twinkling, and had been since we came into the penthouse, when she saw the lavishness of it. I was figuring she was thrilled, thinking she had hooked herself a sugar momma. I tilted my head as she got a little closer. She was different than all the others I had brought back here, though. And not just because she looked nothing like B. There was something innately different about her, like when she looked at me she was looking inside of me.

The squeak of leather as she kneeled before my spread legs as I sat on the couch brought me from my thoughts. Her kiss-swollen lips smiled, showing her perfect smile.

“It’s time”- I set my finger on her lips, silencing her. Time to show her that she was not in charge.

“Sorry.” I smiled, springing forward, enveloping her in my strong arms, and with a few wide steps pressed her against the wall. I had my fingers laced behind her head, cushioning her as I leaned my body into hers completely. I loved the twitch of her muscles and the shaky breath that exploded from her lips, covering my face in the smell of her mouth. Her chest expanded, pressing her chest against mine, her heart thundering.

“How did you?” She asked.

“Shh.” I smiled, pressing my lips to her cheek, then her nose, her jaw, and then I claimed her lips, sucking the bottom one between mine. Her hips flexed forward, and I pulled my mouth away. “You don’t mind, do you?” I whispered, kissing up her other cheek.

“Um, n-n-no.”

My moan was her response as I moved my leather-covered breasts against hers.

*****

The car was idling as one of the vampires help open the back door for Veronica and she slipped into the back. The heat was on high, making the back seat rich in the smell of the leather of the upholstery. She turned to her assistant with eyes filled with wonder.

“We found her.” He offered.

She could not believe it, the words dancing in her ears, like a perfect cord. “Where?” Veronica whispered.

“There is an apartment. We followed her and another woman inside.”

“Drive faster!” She ordered.

*****

One long stroke of my tongue along the length of her neck, and I felt her shiver under my hands. I kissed, and alternated between licks and nips with my lips, my hands moving down her naked chest, feeling her nipples harden under my palms, the metal of the thin hoops through them giving an added sensation through the skin of my hands. Somehow the sensation was running up to my head then straight back down to my clit. I rolled my hips against her thigh, feeling her raising it up to meet me, as I painted her flesh with my wetness.

The bed was beginning to tap the wall, as I picked up the movements of my hips. She moaned pleadingly, and I knew I had to stop teasing her. She had been patient enough. I flicked her right nipple, tasting the twang of the metal against my tongue. It drove me higher, and I swallowed the breast into my mouth, as much of it was I could. I was feasting and mauling her nipple with my tongue, deep in the dark recesses of my mouth. Her hips bucked, and I felt her center, rubbing in time with my sucking against my stomach. God she was getting wetter with each flick of my tongue, of pulling on the ring.

I rolled us over, and she was on top, looking down on me with heavy lidded eyes showing some surprise.

“Why do you do this?” She asked as she ground her dripped sex against my stomach. I let her sit up, my hands still mauling her breasts, pulling on her flesh, loving the jerk it caused her. I just wished she would be quiet, just let me have this moment. A bead of sweat was rolling down the right side of her face, and her breathing was getting more and more erratic. “I can see it in your eyes, this is killing you. Every… thrust… every… ah, moan…” She slipped her hand behind her, fingers moving through my wetness, rubbing my clit in perfect time with her thrusting hips. “Every…” She pressed harder, and I was panting now, right on the edge. “Every… time… you… come.” I snapped my head back, biting back the name on the tip of my tongue as I came under her, and I felt her muscles quivering against me as she came too.

She kept her fingers pressed against me, as her heart started to calm down, just a little. Her eyes had closed as she came, but now they opened and looked down at me.

“You really enjoy this don’t you?”

“What?”

“Bringing someone home, over powering them, making them quake before you. You get off on the power.”

“I didn’t hear you complaining.”

“No.” She laughed. “There was no complaining.” She looked thoughtful. “But this isn’t you, I can tell. Why are you doing this really?”

“And now we all know why I tell them to leave when I am done.”

“Fuck you. Now tell me.”

“No.”

“Okay then, why am I still here?”

“Beginning to wonder that myself.”

“Again, I say, fuck you.”

“Less with the talking, more with the fucking.”

*****

The car pulled up in front of the modern apartment building of glass and steel. Veronica slipped out, smiling up at the top floors. She knew her prize was close. She and the others had devised a plan, of how they would hold the Slayer until the time was perfect, when all would be ready, and then Faith would be forced to choose; life eternal or death.

She silently pointed out her orders, and moved through the front doors.

*****

I nearly didn’t hold back the name in time, the name my body wanted to scream. I needed to keep this one separate. This one was different. I rolled over onto my back, moving my legs off of her shoulders. I just wanted quiet, silence. I wanted to cry. Her hands were moving over my back, suddenly and though I hated being so vulnerable, not being able to see her face, what she was doing, I let that tiny piece of me go, something in her touch made me trust her. And I didn’t even know her name. It nearly made me laugh.

“Is this why?”

“No.”

“This is something else then.” Her warm lips were on my skin, on the scars. “Who was she? Why aren’t you with her if you love her so much.”

“I don’t deserve her.”

PART THREE

She was fighting not to fidget as the elevator rose, a red light illuminating the floor numbers as they rose. The only sign that gave her internal nervousness away was her right hand that was clenching and releasing, clenching and releasing.

“You sure about this, Mistress?”

She took a deep breath. That was it wasn’t it. Was Veronica sure? They were days away from the ritual, and if her numbers dwindled too much it may make it hard if not impossible to perform. And what if Faith got lucky? What if Veronica was hurt and could not –

“Don’t question me.” She snapped, as her leg throbbed at the now healed break her little girl had given her months ago. What she could gain from having Faith now was too much for her to ignore. That insolent girl was what made her blood boil. Veronica had to try.

*****

She was quiet. I leaned up on my arms and looked over my shoulder. Her brown eyes were watering. What? Tears for me? Fool. I rolled over completely and sat up.

“No point.”

“In what?” She asked, looking over my shoulder, like she couldn’t look me in the eye.

“Crying, or feeling sorry for me, or any of that shit. Don’t get all emotional, okay? This was a fuck.” I sneered, but for the first time in awhile I felt sort of bad for doing it.

“I didn’t forget.” She snapped, then her expression softened as she set her hand on my knee. “You are just so cold. So much sadness and pain.”

My leg was a little tingly under her fingers. Her eyes closed and she leaned forward, her hand moving slowly up my leg. I watched her face. Suddenly I didn’t want to breathe as I watched a tear escape her closed left eye.

*****

“Again?” He asked the silent room as he watched the blonde woman leaning forward to kiss the Slayer. He had been sitting in this empty hotel room, across from the building where he had found the Slayer the night before. When the Slayer arrived with this guest two hours before he had soon abandoned his thermos of tea to watch through the binocular lenses. His hands were white knuckled and sweaty. All of him was covered with a sheen of sweat, but he accepted it. Who wouldn’t be, he rationalized, after watching two beautiful women pleasuring themselves. He watched the Slayer lift the woman onto her lap, still kissing, and made a mental note, Slayer stamina was true.

He jumped as the cell phone on his hip vibrated. Swallowing deeply he reached for it, and engaged the device as he brought it to his ear.

“Balch here.” He offered.

“Have you found her?” Mr. Travers snipped immediately. Balch rolled his eyes.

“Yes.”

“And?”

“And Sir?” Balch wondered if he should expand upon the situation, that he had followed her from a sex club, and was watching her; he looked through the lenses of the binoculars again and grinned; should he tell posh Quintin Travers that currently the Slayer was chin deep in a lovely young woman.

“Where is she? How is she fairing? Balch are you there?”

He swallowed. He wasn’t sure if a mortal could pull off the acrobatics he was witnessing.

“Sir, she is safe, and seems to be quite,” he turned his head to see the angle the women were in more fully; “healthy.”

*****

Flicking her clit once more with my tongue I leaned back, looking over her taunt and stretched skin, loving the scene of her heaving chest and breasts before me. Her head lifted to meet my eyes.

“What’s wrong?” She panted. She didn’t snap at me, didn’t demand to know why I stopped when I knew she was so close to coming.

It wasn’t her fault I suddenly had a conscious, felt the need to know about the woman who owned the body that was bringing me so much pleasure. But I couldn’t keep going, not until I knew;

“What’s your name?” I asked softly.

*****

The elevator stopped with a chime. Squaring her small shoulders, feeling suddenly like a woman twice her size, with the power of the demon inside her flexing Veronica stepped out into the hall. Her foot falls silenced by the thick, luscious carpeting that ran wall to wall in its sterile beige. The others were behind her as she moved to the door.

*****

“Does it matter Faith?” She asked running her fingers over my face as I hovered above her. There was something in her touch that made my eyes close. Something about this one woman from the first time I saw her I had to know her, had to see her again.

That hadn’t happened to me ever, until-

“Yes.” I whispered. She pulled my face down lower and I felt her breath on my cheek, then her lips on my ear. My right hand was not idle, but was moving, my fingers circling her opening, feeling her muscles tightening.

“Call me Jude.” She offered and as her reward I slipped my fingers deep inside of her.

*****

Veronica did not hesitate, just pulled back her leg, aiming on the door before her.

*****

I felt her start to come, as her mouth opened and I knew that she was about to call out my name, her eyes looking into mine. I swallowed her cry with my mouth, putting my body on top of hers to still her.

I didn’t want to frighten her, but, “Get dressed now, but be quiet.” I whispered, leaning back.

“What is it?” She whispered, still a little breathless.

“We are in trouble.” I hoped that would be enough, I really didn’t want to sit here and explain the finer points of my existence when-

“This isn’t your apartment is it?” She asked, sure that would work. I gave her my best shit-eating grin. “Great, just fucking great.” She rolled her eyes and moved to her pants beside the bed.

“Take a breath, Jude, nothing is going to happen to you. Okay?”

*****

“I want details, Balch.” Quintin moaned.

“You will have them this evening Sir, encrypted email- Mother of God!” Balch shouted, as he watched the front door in the apartment across the way implode, the shattering wood catching his eye. His eyes widened as he watched the one, the Watcher turned Vampire walk through the debris, five other vampires behind her. Balch looked to the bedroom, seeing the Slayer and her friend dressing quickly, then back to see the vampires walking through the living room.

*****

“Did you hear something?” Jude asked.

“Yep. Come on.” I pulled on my jacket, and extended my hand to her.

*****

“BALCH!” He heard shouted from the phone, but he couldn’t take his eyes away from the building across the way. Watching the vampires moving towards the bedroom, and seeing the Slayer flinging open the door. His smile was ear to ear.

The vampire looked at the empty bedroom on the 14th floor, as the Slayer and woman slipped out of the apartment just above, on the 15th.

“Sorry Sir. Vampires have shown up, but the Slayer seemed to be prepared.”

“Good to hear. Now about that report.”

*****

I took the elevator, feeling my guts cramp as we took it down. There was this nagging feeling that it was Ronnie, I don’t know how I knew, but there were a lot of vampires around suddenly, and she was the only one I could think of who would want a piece of me. I absently rubbed my stomach. I noticed Jude’s eyebrow rise as she looked at me.

“Something wrong?” She asked.

“Um, don’t know.” I lied. I needed her out of here, safe. I had no clue how many would be waiting when we got down stairs. I looked over at her, makeup gone, face still a little flushed. She looked like she was glowing, beautiful. Something inside told me that I had to keep her safe.

The elevator dinged, we were in the lobby. The doors opened. Skimming the open lobby I spotted three of them easily. Trench coats; clean looking. Not your every day run of the mill vampires. I held her arm as we stepped out, and one of them turned, totally in game face and hissed at us.

“What the hell?” Her voice shouted.

“Trust me on this, RUN!” I sprinted towards the door, pulling her along.

*****

She growled as she flipped over the leather couch. There was no one in the apartment. The placed smelled of Faith though, so she knew she was on the right track. But how had her informants gotten it wrong? She allowed her foot to stomp through the glass coffee table.

*****

“Run?” She shouted at me as we neared the front doors. “Did you see his fucking face?”

“Um, yeah?” I offered as I watched her small hands grip the door handle. Nearly free she was nearly-

“Going somewhere, Faith?” A hand was in my hair, and my feet left the ground as I was pulled back. The pain in my pulled muscles burned from the back of my head, down my neck and upper back. He let go, and I looked up at him as I crashed down on the marble floor. I cringed at the sound of my head hitting the ground. Never would get used to the sound of a skull smacking stone.

“Faith!” Jude screamed.

I flipped up, landing on my feet, spinning to kick the asshole behind me. “Jude run now!” He was up already, and his two buddies were coming.

“I can’t leave you.”

I looked over my shoulder, seeing her wide honey eyes. “You can and you will. Go.” I smiled at her as I let my arm shoot out, connecting with the jaw of the vamp. Didn’t even have to look. Yeah I still had it. I winked at her, and with a slump in her shoulders she pushed out of the doors. I waited until I saw the bottoms of her Doc Martens kicking up at a good distance down the street.

I spun back around, snapping my wrist to drop the stake I kept in my sleeve to my right palm, and curled my fingers around it.

“Ready to dance, boys?”

PART FOUR

The bell chimed, signaling the elevators arrival, and I looked up from where I was straddling the last vampire. I could feel blood rolling down the left side of my face from the gash hidden somewhere in my hair. This vamp had gotten a few good shots in as the other two held my arms. That is until I managed to get the upper hand. Now there were two piles of dust behind me, and my fists drenched in demon blood, a vampire with a face that no longer looked human, as I looked up with a snarl.

Four more stepped out of the elevator. But I didn’t see them. My eyes were locked on Ronnie, as she came out with a purpose in her step, before our eyes met, and she froze, her face changed back to her human visage.

“Baby girl.” She grinned.

And three more vampires came out of the elevator behind her.

Fuck.

Eight more vamps, and I was feeling tired.

*****

Balch watched from his hotel room above as the woman with the short blonde hair ran down the street. With no sign of the Slayer he focused in on the lobby, but couldn’t see through the tinted glass. With a sigh he packed up, and had made his way down. He waited in the shadows across the street, not knowing for sure if the Slayer would make it out, but he would wait.

*****

The rage and the anger pumped through my veins. I staked the vampire under me with indifference and stood slowly. The vamps flanked Ronnie, and she was fluttering the fingers on her hands, her eyes watching my every move from seven feet away. She always did that with her fingers when she was excited. So it was her who raided my building, who came in the middle of the night and nearly caught me. If I hadn’t taken Jude to that other apartment this evening would have ended a lot differently. I knew without a doubt I would have died protecting that petite blonde who I hardly knew. Knowing that I had been that vulnerable made my teeth ache, from clenched my jaws. But it didn’t happen, I had made the right choice, for once. I looked them all over again, seeing the stoic confidence they all displayed standing there. I sighed and rolled my shoulders.

“Long time no see, Ronnie.” I cocked my hip and crossed my arms. I could feel the muscles in my arms jumping, ready. My reflection was over. I was all business again. It was like whatever in me made me a Slayer was bouncing around happy as hell that a group of vamps was right in front of me. I wondered if the demons in them were slamming against the cage of flesh too. “Been keeping out of trouble?” I asked.

“Now, now, Faith, we both know that trouble finds you, not me.”

“How could I forget? You were always the queen of Teflon, right?” I kicked my toes through the pile of dust and ash. “You didn’t like this one did you?” My voice was full of mock apology.

“He was expendable.”

“Right.” I drawled. “You consider everyone expendable.” That was one of the rules she always imparted when she was my Watcher. Getting the demon was all that mattered; anyone or thing in the way of that was secondary. Slayers were above the laws. Funny how I rallied against that at the time, but later in Sunnydale, when I fucked up, I adapted her philosophy real quick.

“Oh, not everyone. Not you.” She took a step closer, and I growled at her.

“I will kill you for what you did to Dawn.”

“What I did?” She leaned her neck back and laughed. “It was your choice to make. I offered what I thought was a fair trade, you for her. It was you, Faith who decided to give up the girl.”

“No.” I looked down at the floor, because I believed her. A part of me knew she was right and was taunting me as I listened to her voice.

“Yes.”

Silence filled the room for a moment. She was letting me chew on that one. Like she could feel the guilt that was bubbling up inside of me. Like she could feel the anguished sigh I was holding in the back of my throat. I always came back to that night, knowing that if I had just gone that Dawn would be alive right now, probably making B’s life hell, sneaking out still, but still alive, still there. It was my fault.

Stop it.

I could hear B in my head, telling me that it wasn’t my fault; no one blamed me. Just like that time she beat against my chest, her small fists raining against me, as she mumbled “stop it” over and over again.

I closed my eyes, blocking that memory. Blocking all memories of B and of the pain. I would focus. When I focused I was unstoppable, when I focused I could feel the haunting pleasure I was going to feel from killing Ronnie, making her see that she had not won, not really.

“I offer you the same again.” Ronnie said softly.

I looked up with a snap.

“Come with me. Join me.”

A deep shiver ran through my body, and I couldn’t stop from shaking outwardly, just a little.

“Oh, yeah, let me think about that one…” I tapped my finger on my chin, ignoring that it came away covered in blood. I gazed up at her yellowed eyes, and smirked. “How about no fucking way, you sick, twisted, pathetic, dirty, whore.”

“Oh, baby girl. I had hoped you would say”-

The air cracked around me, and the hairs stood on the back of my neck. There was a warbling arch of purple light, and I was pushed back a few staggered steps. I blinked rapidly, clearing my eyes. With ten blinks I saw her narrowing dark eyes, and her now brown hair. That was new.

“You!” Anya threw her hands up in the air, as she scrunched her face at me.

“Me what? Oh, and nice to see you too.” What in the hell was she doing here?

“What happened to your face?” She asked.

“Huh?”

“You know, cuts, blood, general gore.” She cocked her head in that duh way she seemed to get on occasion.

“Fight.” I shrugged, and pointed over her shoulder. She looked and then looked back to me.

“Guess I interrupted something.”

“Guess so.” I grinned, palming a stake, thankful for Anya blocking my body from the view of the vamps. I winked at her and she turned slightly, as the stake flew by her, and into the chest of the vamp just to the right of Ronnie.

“You are not playing fair, Faith.” Ronnie said, moving behind one of her minions.

“What else is new?” I asked moving forward, kicking out at one of the vamps.

*****

The bright light caught his attention, and Balch was kneeling outside his hands cupped on the glass of the wall to see inside. He was watching as the Slayer and the vengeance demon fought the vampires. It was the Slayer who delivered the deathblow to the vampires, but the demon was wearing them down. This was a very interesting development.

While the two of them worked together, Balch watched Veronica, and two other vampires exit through the back of the lobby. He suspected they made their way to a car, as the sunrise was only a few minutes away.

He figured he should do the same. He would not like to explain his presence to the Slayer, nor did he think Mr. Travers would wait indefinitely for the report he still needed to write.

*****

Poof.

I turned slowly, surveying the room. That was the last of them.

“She got away.” Anya pouted as she straightened her shirt.

“Figures. She always was a coward.” I shrugged tucking the stake away in my sleeve. Piles of dust, broken furniture. Some one was going to be pissed off, that was for sure. I was glad that the surveillance cameras had been ripped from the walls, nothing like explaining how a gang of circus freaks fought me and then disappeared when I hit them… I mean really, in this day in age you think some of these people would have bought a clue. Fangs, blood, stake, all spells vampire to me, but hey, call me crazy.

I spun back to Anya. “Wait, what the hell are you doing here? Did B vengeance me or something?”

“Um, no.” She rolled her eyes. “And you are welcome, by the way.”

“Thanks?” I grinned, my best, get out of trouble grin. B always had the pout, but I had the grin.

“Your sincerity really is humbling.” Anya said. Was that a joke? “I had an evening free and D’Hoffrin asked me to zip over and check out an intensity heave centered near here.” She snapped her fingers in front of my eyes “Still with me?”

“Don’t do that.” I growled. I hated when people did that. I felt my jaws clench. I was just wondering if she was feeding me a line.

“You always were the burly one.”

“Heave what?” I snapped.

“Oh, there is something weird happening, and I came to the strongest power source, and look what I find, you.” She frowned. “I think the amassing of power has to be connected to that ex-Watcher of yours.”

“Ass huh?”

“Dark energies.”

“There is something witchy you mean?”

“I guess you could say that, to be rudimentary.”

“This have something to do with where she has been hiding? What she is doing?”

“I can’t just tell you, I am not a give all the clues away demon.”

I closed my eyes. Anya is a demon, she is here checking out a lot of witchy mojo power. Ronnie is up to something, but she has been hiding from me. Fuck! I knew I should be able to figure this out. “Witchy? Boston? Salem, right?”

“See you are good at these games.” Anya grinned.

“Right.” I rolled my eyes. At least it was a place to start.

“Faith come home, Buffy needs you.” She set setting her hand on my arm. I shook it off.

“She will never need me. I betrayed her.”

“How?”

Was she sucking on the stupid pipe with Xander before she left the ‘dale? “Dawn died because of me.” I replied flatly.

“No, she died because a vampire gutted her, you were with us.”

“Don’t any of you get it? If I would have just gone with her then”-

“You know what would have happened, Faith, and it would not have been a pretty. No one blames you, and certainly not Buffy. She loves you. All these months with you gone, she was walking around like a zombie, like she was dying, Faith.”

“What?” I glared at her, but my heart actually stopped beating in my chest.

“You know broken heart and all that.”

I sighed, and my heart started beating again. “Right. She could have any one.”

“I know. I told her that myself, but she is fickle for some reason, she only wants you.”

I turned away.

“Go home.” I offered.

“Not so easy.” I heard her say and then a snap in the air behind me and the smell of sulfur. “I told you I would”-

“You know you were supposed to orb back and tell me.” I heard a new voice and turned around. Red was standing beside Anya, dressed to the hilt as my little twin. Wow, Red in leather looked a little hot.

“I know that was what we talked about Willow, but I got distracted, with her being bloody, and I helped fight vampires, oh and well,” Anya lowered her voice and looked me over again. “She reeks of sex.” Her eyebrows jiggled.

“How could you?” Red snapped stepping closer to me, and I swear for a second her eyes filled with black and I got just a little nervous.

“It didn’t mean”- She lifted her hand, and I shut up.

“I don’t care about that. I meant leaving like that.”

“It was for the best, Red. You know that as well as I do.”

“Bullshit. That is a cop out and you know it.”

“You don’t know.” I tried.

“Don’t I? Oh, hate to burst your ego bubble, you big bad Slayer,” she was right up in my face now, “but I know exactly what it is like to lose someone you love, someone you vowed to protect. And you feel like it is your fault, like there had to have been something that you could have done to stop it. But the reality is you didn’t. You couldn’t stop them from killing Dawn, just like I couldn’t stop Warren from killing Tara.”

That cut deep. And part of me knew she was right, knew I should listen to the words and really hear them this time. But another stupid stubborn part just wouldn’t let me go. “Ronnie was my Watcher, some one who knew exactly how to hurt me. She was a vamp who wanted me. I should have been out there hunting her, dusting her. But where was I? I was fucking B senseless. When they had Dawn locked in a cage, I was getting off. How can this not be my fault?”

“You didn’t know, just like Buffy didn’t know.”

“I should have.” I dropped my eyes.

“Do you blame her?” Red asked.

“Who?”

“Buffy, you ass!” She hit my arm, not hard, but enough for me to glare at her. “Do you blame her for being with you that night too?”

“God, no! Never.” I exclaimed shocked that she would even think for one second I would. “If I would have just gone after Ronnie, then I could have stopped”-

“You will never get it, will you Faith? You couldn’t have done anything. It was Dawn’s time.” Red crossed her arms.

“Don’t you dare go all mother-earth, ‘everything happens for a reason’, snuggly, cuddly lesbian on me!”

“Clearly I can’t talk to you right now.”

“Finally the girl opens her eyes.” I threw my arms up and took a few steps away. But she wasn’t letting me get away so easy. They both matched my steps so we were standing huddled in front of the elevators.

“Think about this, Faith, while you have been running across the country hunting this vampire, Buffy was alone. Her heart was broken, her family is all dead, and she has no one.”

“That is what I told her Willow.” Anya interjected.

I ignored Anya and continued. “B has you all.”

“But she loves you.”

“Said that too.” Anya was now rocking back and forth on her feet, a pleased grin on her face.

Red set her hand on my arm, looking at me, searching me for something, and I had no clue what she was looking for. Her lips twitched, like she was looking for something to say, but not sure. Yet, something was nagging me, in the back of my exhausted and beaten mind.

“Does she know that you are here?” I asked.

“I, well, not exactly.” Red hedged.

“How about you, Anya? Does she know you’re here?”

“Nope, hard to tell her when”-

“Of course we aren’t going to tell her Faith! She is distraught, missing you. It's not the sort of thing you just announce to a tense Slayer you know?” Red offered quickly.

“Go home, both of you. Just go.” I shook my head and walked into the elevator, hitting buttons without looking. This had to be just another bad nightmare. It was just too freaky.

*****

The room was thrashed. And I mean thrashed, like it would put Heavy Metal bands to shame, the amount of thrashed. The front door was a thin strip of wood on hinges. That answered that question. Ronnie knew that I was supposed to be on the other side, and there was nothing that was going to stop her from getting to me.

Even so, I still stripped naked and stepped into the steaming hot shower. If they managed to come back, fine. I would fight them off naked. Wouldn’t be the first time.

As the water hit the open cuts on my face I winced, and set my hands on the tiled wall, just feeling the pain. Pain meant I was alive, and it was good. I rolled my shoulders, feeling some of the tension dissipate. Not all, but enough.

This was still new. Being the one that was hunted in a way. Having Ronnie completely obsessed with me. Never had happened before, as a Slayer. B had this down to a science, years of vamps centering in on her. But me? I had no idea how to handle this, how to use it to my advantage. I knew I couldn’t go back and change a damn thing, but I also had no idea how to get her. Even knowing a little more, that whatever she was doing had something to do with magic, I was still at a loss. And that had me scared, to be honest.

*****

The sky was lightening, just around the edges, and I knew in another five minutes there would be no more vampires about. Which, as I limped as I walked, was a good thing. I needed some rest. The shower had helped, but I needed sleep. Never thought the day would come when I couldn’t keep slaying and slaying and slaying all night long. I felt the pain in my cheek as I grinned. I guess I was getting old or something. No longer the young little Slayer.

I shifted my bag, and then pulled my coat around me just a little tighter, keeping my feet moving forward. My brain was firing left and right, thoughts bouncing around, keeping the numbness I craved at bay.

What the hell was the real reason for Red and Anya showing up? It had to be more than a little errand for the head vengeance demon. I believed that about as much as I believed that television show Survivor wasn’t rigged. So they came to Boston for a reason. Was I that reason? If so why? And why come and harp on me about going back to the ‘dale? Why tell me how unhappy B was? Didn’t anyone understand I left because of her, but also because I had to get rid of Ronnie? I had to make this right again. I had to kill that bitch.

*****

She sat in the darkened room, feeling the fatigue of the night catching up to her as the sun rose outside. Her hands were absently running over the book she had taken from Faith’s room. A Watcher’s Diary. One she had actually read as well. She only remembered bits and pieces, but smiled at the similarities between this long dead Slayer’s life and that of Faith.

Veronica wondered if Faith had finally accepted her destiny as a Slayer, accepted her responsibility and power. It had always been something that the young girl had struggled with, the goodness. Veronica knew all about her descent into darkness, working for Mayor Wilkins and all that came after that. None of it surprised her. She had manipulated Faith, pushed her in that direction when she had been her Watcher, because she had always known, from the first night she witnessed her on the beach that Faith would be the one. The one Slayer who was successfully turned, who would abandon the light and embrace the darkness. Veronica molded her easily. A young girl with such a painful past was easy to manipulate. All little Faith wanted was to be loved, and to feel like she was worthy of something more than pain. And Veronica made it clear to her that she would never be worth much.

She leaned back, closing her eyes, smiling. In two days it would be time, and she would then have what she had waited patiently for. She would turn the Slayer. Just as she had been instructed to years ago. But this time she was doing it for her own reasons.

*****

“…in conclusion, though the battle appeared hopeless, the Slayer managed to survive another night. It is evident that the passion and strength this Slayer harnesses comes from her pain.”

Balch sat back in the chair, done reading the last lines of his report. It was spotty at best, but he knew that not everything needed to be reported, though there were some old Chroniclers who would give their dentures to have witness what he had this night. But he knew that in the scope of the mission he was on, it meant little. All he needed to know for sure was that she was healthy, and her whereabouts. All else was secondary to the end.

Balch hit send, and then disengaged his computer from the connection. Checking his watch he knew the Slayer would be finding somewhere to sleep. He would look for her after sunset.

*****

The traffic on the streets was picking up with the sunlight, but the sidewalks were still empty, though scrapped free of snow. I was moving, not sure where, wanting nothing more than to find a dark hole to crawl into a sleep. I turned another blind corner, and stopped, feeling someone standing before me. Slowly I raised my tired head to look into Jude’s honey eyes. They seemed to sparkle with life and light. I was so happy, almost giddy.

“Did you win?” She asked softly, cupping my face in her hands, her eyes looking me over.

“You are standing here right?”

She looked at me, raising a brow. “Yeah.” She said.

“Then we won.” I winked. She moved to smack my arm playfully, but I caught her hand and pulled her tight against me, leaning my head down to capture her lips softly. I only released her hand when she started kissing me back. Our lips danced softly, slowly, like she knew I was sore, but still needed to feel her, needed to feel something. I felt her fingers under my jacket, her short nails raking over my skin just so, making my heart thunder, my knees get a little weak, and all thoughts of sleep were immediately replaced by thoughts of things I wanted to do in bed with her. I pulled away, sucking a deep breath and then whispered, pleadingly, “Take me home.”

*****

I was sitting on the edge of the bed, naked, covered in sweat and my face in my hands. I felt her lips on my shoulder, her silent question.

I had stopped, bolting off of her in the middle of it. Why? Guess who was the fuck up who moaned out the wrong name? DING! We have a winner. She and I had been moving, matching each other perfectly, and the feel of her skin, the pressure of her hands. The name just slipped out.

“Do you want to tell me about her?”

“Not really.” I sighed.

“I think it might make you feel better.” She offered.

“Aren’t you supposed to be pissed off or something?”

“No.” She laughed. “Well, maybe. Faith you love Buffy. That is clear. And it is haunting you.” She kissed the back of my neck. “Tell me?”

I turned looking into those eyes, then taking in her entire face and body. She looked completely different than what I thought I would be attracted to. But I was. From the first moment we touched in that club, till this moment I wanted to be close to her. I felt eerily safe with her. I closed my eyes, and spoke. “There is just something, here, you know” I set my fingers on my chest “that doesn’t feel right, and hasn’t felt right since I walked away from her.”

“Then why did you?”

“There is a lot of fucked up stuff in my life, and I had to deal with it.”

“Have you?”

“I don’t know.” I got up and paced. “See I thought I could make it go away, fill this void. I never needed anyone in my life before, not like I need her. The first time I held her in my arms, I, I felt like I was home. Really home. A sort of peace washed over me.”

She sighed.

“But.” I turned.

“But?” She looked up at me.

“But I wasn’t ready to be home. I didn’t think I deserved to be home.”

“So you pushed her away.” It was a statement.

“Yeah.”

“Why don’t you think”-

“It's not that simple, Jude. Nothing ever is. I could have stayed with her, but it would have ended badly and quickly. I am not ready to be home. I am not whole, and I can’t be with her until I am. It would be like I was cheating her out of something more. What B deserves. I am fractured, not all there.”

“So you just left.”

“I told her I had to go.”

“But did you tell her why?”

“Not really. Hell I didn’t even know why myself, only that I didn’t belong.”

She sighed again. “But don’t you think you hurt her by not trying to explain?”

“We’ve always hurt each other.”

"I know emotional scars hurt Faith but you can’t just-"

“It was a little more than that, but we don’t need the gory details.”

“You are talking around something Faith. Why aren’t you there? You love her, does she love you?” She asked looking up at me from the bed, clearly wanting to know.

“I think –no, I know she loves me. The thing is I don’t deserve her love.”

“Not your decision. She is free to love who she wants how she wants. You have no control over her heart.”

“But she could do so much better. She could have a real life you know? Babies and husband, and someone who would not hurt her, betray her trust.” I replied vehemently.

“From what you have told me, I am pretty sure this Buffy knows exactly what you can and can’t offer her, and yet, she still loves you, still wants you. I think you are afraid to love her. You are putting all of this on her, sort of like a noble gesture, saving her from the big bad you. Which is bullshit, Faith. You are just a scared little girl. You know that loving her makes you vulnerable, makes it so she can hurt you, and you are scared of that.”

“But”- I started.

“Wait. I am not finished.”

I snapped my mouth closed.

“You are across the country; doing everything you can to hurt yourself. Using girls that look like her to get off, you are doing that to make sure that you don’t deserve her. You know that she is thinking about you, wanting you, hoping you come back, and you are living to make sure you hurt her. You are living up to what you think are everyone’s expectations of you. Can’t you see what you are doing? Or are you so scared and blinded by the past wrong that was done to you that you think this is okay. Clearly you had someone in your life once who you loved unconditionally, and they turned you away, they betrayed you. So you are doing the same thing to her, whether she ever knows you are doing this or not, you will, and it will give you a crutch to fall back on. You are worthy of her love Faith, if you weren’t she wouldn’t love you. So you can stay here, doing what you are doing, or you can try. Be with her.”

“It’s more complicated than that.” I offered, but knew I was done for. Everything she said rang with a sharp truth.

“Doubtful.”

“You don’t know the first thing about me.” I countered.

“I know enough to know you are killing yourself by closing off.” She sighed, “and as much as you don’t want me to say it, I have grown fond of you, and hate to watch you do this to yourself. You could be so happy, if you only let yourself.”

“It’s too late.”

“Only if you think so.” She disagreed.

I shook my head and moved to the pile of clothes, bending to pull up on my jeans. I had to go. I couldn’t stay, not now. Not with the truth swelling in my head and in my heart. I just couldn’t be here. “There is something I have to take care of.”

“Will you come back?” She asked, for the first time fear in her voice.

“I don’t think so.”

“Why?” She gulped.

“I don’t think that I will make it back.”

“If you do?”

I walked closer to her, taking her face in my hands, and tenderly kissed her goodbye. We both opened our eyes as I moved away. “Jude, no matter what, I love Buffy.”

“I know.”

*****

She waited until she heard the elevator engaged, and then she reached over the bed and lifted the phone to her lap. Dialing she looked again to the door, and sighed as she heard the first ring. And then another ring. And then.

“Hey, it’s me….She just left…I think Faith might know where she is…well she seemed pretty determined…No…” she rolled her eyes, “No I did not tell her…really, like I hadn’t thought of that…Not sure…maybe, well you never- whoa none of your-what?……..fine…it depends…bye.”

She hung up the phone and walked towards the small window, looking out, setting her hand on the frame, wishing she could see down to the street from here.

She rubbed the back of her neck, trying to loosen some of the tension she was feeling there. Her hand slipped down her neck, down between her breasts. With a sigh she looked down as she took the ring that was through her right nipple in her fingers, and spun the steel bead, making it loose. Closing her eyes she slipped the ring out of her flesh and felt the shimmer of heat on her skin. Slowly she shook her long hair, and opened her hazel eyes, looking down at the ring, the perfectly crafted glamour.

Buffy looked back out the window, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth.

“I love you Faith. Please be careful.”

PART FIVE

My head was thundering, a headache the size of California was settling in. The last twenty-four hours were swirling around. The bursts of adrenaline from the slaying and emotional pain from talking about B was enough to leave me abandoned here, needing something I knew I would not readily find. I needed to be held, to be comforted.

I looked up at the dingy hotel, behind me searching the windows for a familiar shape. The afternoon sun turned them all to mirrors, images of myself, standing alone, was all that was reflected back.

I needed B. I needed to look into those eyes, to hear the heart beat that always seemed to match my own. I needed to feel home.

I ran my hands over my face, trying to invigorate the skin, and get myself moving forward again. There was no home for me. Not yet anyway.

I was tired of waiting for it. I would make it time. I would make it happen. Hell, I was a Slayer; I was an unstoppable force. It was time for me to actually start living up to my gift. I secured the bag on my shoulders, and walked down the street, looking for a bus stop. Any one would do. They would all take me to the same place.

*****

She walked away from the window, not being able to see anything below. With a sigh, Buffy pulled on her pants, and then a thin tank top.

Buffy wasn’t completely sure this was the best idea. Part of her knew that Faith needed this time, needed to do this alone for so many different reasons. She needed to come to terms with herself, and learn that she could do this alone. It was something Faith had always seemed to wrestle with, thinking she was less than Buffy, thinking that she was a Slayer by default, by mistake. Doing this alone would be a step in Faith accepting her calling, accepting that she was Chosen and had just as much right to the title of Slayer as Buffy did.

Still Buffy’s heart was shuddering, a sliver of fear wedging inside. If she walked away and something happened to Faith, if she lost her, Buffy would never be the same. She would be incomplete and she would simply cease to be the person she was right now. She looked to the window again, her thoughts only on Faith and where she would be heading. There was so much Buffy needed to tell her.

Her head snapped to the door, and a second later there was a knock. Slowly Buffy walked over to it, closing her eyes, and inhaling. Buffy’s shoulders drooped slightly, knowing that Faith was not on the other side, before pulling the door open.

Standing there grinning were Anya and Willow.

“Come in guys.” She stepped aside to let them enter. Buffy went back and sat on the end of the bed.

“I told you it was a good idea to wait a few hours.” Anya mumbled to Willow.

“Faith isn’t?” Willow asked, looking around the room, before she stared at the rumpled bed.

“She left a few minutes ago.” Buffy said, cocking her head to the side, taking in the sight of her best friend.

“Um, Wills, what’s with the clothes? I mean, don’t get me wrong, we all know I love leather.” Buffy asked looking her friend up and then down, taking in the skin tight black leather pants, and the equally tight leather top with flared arms. She looked nothing like the sweatered girl Buffy had befriended years ago.

“I was on my way to meet, um, what I mean was, I was going to, er, somewhere when I got the call.” Willow said, running her hands down her leather covered torso nervously.

“Call? What, you two have built in walky-talkies or something?” Buffy asked. She knew that Anya and Willow had gotten closer in the last few months, but she was still confused.

“No Buffy, I called her telepathically.” Anya said, sitting down on the bed beside Buffy.

“Oh.” Buffy said. “Did you guys talk to Faith at all?”

“Last night.” Willow offered.

“Last night? With the vampires last night?”

“Yes, it was rather exhilarating.” Anya beamed.

“What happened? I noticed a couple of vamps, but then Faith made me take off.” Buffy asked. Leaving Faith to fight alone went against every belief she had. A Slayer did not run. Granted, in hindsight Buffy was glad she had run, she had no power when she was disguised, it cloaked everything. But Buffy had been stubbornly thinking of ways around it, of finding something that she could do to be back in that lobby trading blows with the vampires, Faith by her side. She had even considered for a moment forgetting the entire plan, but her belief in Faith’s abilities had held her back.

“Well she has pretty beat up when I orbed in.” Anya offered.

*****

Copley Square.

Just like I remembered it really. Well that wasn’t completely true. Everything looked a little smaller. Guess that is what happens when years go by, and I had grown at least a foot taller. My life had completely changed since I stood in this spot last. It had been winter then too, with snow on the ground, trees bare for the season. But I had been innocent then. Not knowing the true evil that lay in a human heart, not knowing the pain of loss, not knowing the feel of being struck in anger, not knowing what it felt like to be taken against my will, not knowing that the monsters and demons in the stories read to me were in fact real, not knowing what it felt like to love and want it so desperately that it made you lash out in rage, not knowing anything. I was a child the last time I walk through this Square, holding to the hand of the man who was my hero. The sun rose in my father’s eyes, and he held the keys of the world for me. I could hardly remember the sound of his voice, but I would always remember how I felt holding his hand, feeling so small next to him. He made me feel safe and loved. It was something that had eluded me for years after his death, but if I was honest with myself I knew I had felt a glimmer of that same feeling waking in B’s arms.

I stopped, looking around the square, turning around slowly. I would get my vengeance, and if I survived I would never take what I found in my fellow Slayer’s arms for granted again.

I sighed, and moved through the crowds towards the McKim building.

*****

After they left Buffy sat holding the manila envelope on her lap. She had to get what was in here to Faith. It was painfully clear that Buffy could not jump in stakes blazing to save the day. Sure they would defeat Veronica, sure she would be a pile of dust, and the murder of Dawn would be avenged, but in doing that Buffy knew, without a shadow of a doubt that Faith would feel like she was second best still. Faith was pushing herself to do this on her own, without any help. What the stubborn Slayer did not realize was that Buffy didn’t even do things on her own; she wasn’t this mythical creature who did everything by herself.

*****

“Interesting.” Balch mumbled under his breath as he sat in the corner of the brightly lit hall. The smell and sound of newspapers filled this room. His eyes skimmed the soft white walls, taking in the long oak tables and chairs filled with a variety of Americans. So many different examples. From the businessman snapping and creasing a copy of the Washington Post, to an older, white hair gentlemen reading the latest copy of the jazz review. And at a table all by herself; the Slayer. She was near slot 150. She had been skimming through different papers, clearly looking for something. When Balch had approached one of the library matrons, asking what was in slot 150 he was interested to learn that the Slayer had spent two hours looking through copies of the Salem Evening News.

The faint light outside the four large windows was dimming and he knew that the Boston Public Library would soon be cloaked in darkness. He wondered how long she would be keeping her research up. He was becoming uncomfortable in the high backed oak chair, and the London Times was no longer holding his interest. Balch shifted again, and prepared himself to wait as long as needed.

*****

The room had thinned out, and I was done. My eyes were unfocused, and my hand was shaking slightly as I folded up the latest edition of the Salem Evening News. I put all of the copies I had been looking through back where I got them, and then lifted up my jacket and bag.

Making my way out of the room, down the hall I followed the signs, and turned into the ladies room.

Now I understood the whole Scooby thing. The Slayer is the muscle, the rest of them work to figure all this stuff out. I was sure as my middle name was, well okay I didn’t have a middle name, but I knew that Red would have been able to hop on the internet and find me all of this information in thirty minutes, but me, I spent hours looking through newspapers. And I still had no clue what was going on, what Ronnie was planning, other than it had something to do with magic, which her being a vampire didn’t surprise me all that much.

Yep a book on spells that Ex-Watchers-turned-vamps might use sure would come in handy about now. I wondered if they would have something like that up in the Rare Books section? I sort of doubted it.

“Well, it looks like it’s just me on this.” I mumbled, turning on the water facet, cupping my hands and tossing water on my face. This was okay. I needed to do this. I could do this. I would do this.

*****

“This is more important than just Faith getting revenge, for getting the burden of Veronica off her back.” Buffy decided as she paced in the hotel room. She cast her eyes to the envelope again, remembering clearly the evening three weeks ago when the reality of the situation hit her and the others right between the eyes.

[Buffy was pacing, tapping a partially chewed pencil on her bottom lip, tossing glances over to Willow and Xander who were huddling around the ever present laptop. They had been looking for a reversal spell, it seemed one of the teens at the High School had decided to turn the gym teacher into a shrew, and said shrew was in a small glass tank on the other end of the dinning room table.

“It hopped!” Anya screeched. “Xander, you told me that it was not a rabbit, but a rodent of some kind. I swear it hopped.”

“An, it isn’t a rabbit. Calm down.”

“You have no idea what they can do, Xander Harris, no idea. That cute act while they plan on destroying the world.” She stopped staring at the animal in the glass and looked down the table. “Much like Willow.” She grinned.

“Anya, really.” Giles piped up. “It should be a simple spell, Willow.”

“Yeah, I am getting that from all of the breathing I am feeling on my neck. Guys I will find it, we will do it, and poof, no more Mister Rodent Guy.”

“Actually that was Ms Brazen.” Xander grinned.

Buffy rolled her eyes.

“Back up the train sister.” Xander said, tapping the screen.

“Finger, screen, no no.” Willow smacked his hand.

“What was that?”

“What was what?” Willow retorted.

“That. I saw Faith’s name.”

“Faith?” Buffy stopped pacing and turned her eyes to her friends. “What about Faith? Was it my Faith? Or like faith faith? Wills, do you know something about Faith?”

“Gee Xander, think before you open your mouth much?” Willow mumbled. Buffy knew that they had been tip toeing around the subject of Faith for months, ever since she left and it became clear that she was not going to remain in contact.

“Wills?”

“It’s, that is to say, well you know how I.” Willow sighed. “I have been tracking her. Well not her. I am not that hi tech. But I have been keeping track of thefts and murders, and, well.”

“She did a locator spell, does one each morning.” Anya said in a bored voice. “Is there any more of that grape soda?” She walked out of the dinning room, Willow watching her go, her mouth moving like a fish.

“Willow?” Buffy stepped closer.

“Maybe I have been.”

“What have you discovered?” Giles asked.

“Where ever Faith has been there have been some robberies, of the occult kind.”

“Our favorite.” Xander said.

“Is there any significance to these items?” Giles closed the book he was looking through. “I am assuming Faith is still after Veronica, and if that is the case she now has all these ingredients, to do a spell.”

“Well from what I have run in the database they have everything but one item to do a specific spell.” Willow offered, and Giles was now standing behind her as well as Xander.

“What spell?” Giles asked.

“Bad spell.” Willow replied, smiling sadly at Buffy.

“But Veronica can’t do it right?” Buffy asked.

“Right. The ancient text clearly states what is needed in this ritual and well the one thing they need, um, well, it’s that I don’t think” Willow began but was interrupted by Giles.

“That is unlikely.” He scoffed standing back up.

“Hello? Fill me in?” Buffy said crossing her arms looking at the three of them.

“They need the blood of a child borne of two slayers.” Willow said with a rueful grin.

“Did the guys who wrote these prophecies skip bio class?” Buffy rolled her eyes.

“Um, guys?” Xander asked softly.

“Yeah?” Buffy stepped closer.

“Monks, created a human form from the”- He began to explain.

“Good Lord.” Giles leaned against the wall.

“Dawnie.” Willow said sadly.

“So what is this bad spell again?” Buffy asked stepping closer.]

*****

I stepped out into the early evening light. I took a deep breath of the wintry air, to clear my head and wake me up. Getting my bearings I looked around. I needed to head over to Cambridge.

Ronnie was always into magic and spells. Even taught me a few; like how to disarm magic spells, simple stuff that she said I might need when slaying. There was this magic shop she used to send me to, when she needed something. I figured that was where B would think to look, so it was worth a shot.

*****

She was making her way to the station; to take a train south and then she would board a plan and fly back to Sunnydale. Buffy knew, she couldn’t help Faith, and if she stayed here she wouldn’t be able to stop herself from becoming involved.

She crossed some square, still having no idea what things were called here in this city, even though she had been here for a week. Her time had been spent in disguise looking for Faith. When they discovered that Faith was in Boston Buffy decided that she had to see the other Slayer, that a moment could not go by without her making sure that she was alright. After debating with herself, and a hearty fight with Giles over her leaving the Hellmouth unguarded she had made the plan to go. It was Willow who had come up with the idea of a glamour, making one strong enough that it would block the “slayer” in Buffy for short periods of time. This was the most important piece of the disguise, if not Faith would have been able to sense Buffy when they were near, and then she would never have been able to observe her. It had never been her intention for anything more to happen. She wanted to just see Faith again, to see if she was any closer to accepting herself and finding peace, and then find a way to sneak her the information that they had found out about what Veronica was up to. Never in a million years did Buffy think that she would end up being with Faith, in that apartment. She just could not help herself. It was like they were both pulled to one another, and Buffy quickly gave up fighting it. She needed to touch Faith.

How are you going to explain this one, Summers?

She mused, not sure how the other Slayer would take it when she told her. And she would tell her, given the chance. There was nothing Buffy would ever keep from Faith forever.

Willow had listened to her rant and rave about how Faith was still the same, inside, even though she had left Sunnydale. Buffy had always known that this was something Faith had to do for herself. Not just seeking revenge on the vampire who murdered Dawn, but to seek revenge on the past, the voices in her head, the memories, the teaching that she had been given over the years that made Faith feel like she was less than those around her. That made those soulful brown eyes lower in submission, accepting a lie. Faith believed that she was second best. Second best Slayer, second best lover to Buffy, second best human. There was nothing any one could say to Faith to make her understand that was not the case, that they all loved her and needed her for exactly who she was. The problem was that Faith had no, well faith in herself. It took months for Willow and the others to accept, in some way that they should not be angry that Faith left them, and for the most part they had all agreed to this, that or to suffer in silence. Things in Sunnydale had carried on, not the same as they were before, but similar. There were vampires to slay, demons with plots of opening the Hellmouth to battle. Buffy and the Scoobies went about saving the world together.

When Buffy had found out that Willow had been keeping track of Faith’s movements, using magic and technology, her best friend had found out about Faith’s voracious carnal appetite. Buffy smiled, remembering Willow’s look of horror as she had relayed the tale of Faith taking three women in one night, expecting Buffy to become enraged. The redhead had been shocked when Buffy did no more than smile sadly. To Buffy it didn’t matter that she was sleeping around, drinking, being destructive, Buffy knew that Faith still loved her and her alone. All the other women didn’t matter. Willow tried to scoff, to tell Buffy that if Faith loved her so much then why was she sharing her body with all of these other women. Buffy could talk until she was blue in the face, but Willow would not understand the pull a Slayer felt, the need that clawed at them from the inside out. This need to feel another human body beneath them, under them, beside them, just touching them. Each day could be their last, and when a night of slaying was complete, feeling that alive was a necessity. Buffy understood it. She had not been celibate in the time that Faith was away, she knew Faith would never expect that of her, unless she asked. And neither of them had made that request. Besides, Buffy recalled with a grin, watching Faith above her, seeing those eyes appear inky black as her swollen lips moaned out the name “Buffy” when she was moving against someone who looked nothing like her warmed a place in her heart. Still she knew it sounded insane and no one would ever understand. Well, no one but Faith.

In her musings she didn’t pay attention to her surroundings, but was brought back to reality as she slammed into a strong body. Her eyes snapped fully open, and she looked up into russet pools she would always lose herself in.

“Um, well, I – sorry?” Buffy offered, suddenly wanting to hug Willow for her insistence that Buffy continue using the glamour until she arrived at the airport. She would never been able to explain herself to Faith if she was not cloaked in magic.

She watched a slight grin spread over Faith’s lips. “Hey you.” She said in a thick voice that made the hairs on the back of Buffy’s neck stand on end. Knuckles moved over her cheek, and Faith cocked her head. “How are you?”

“Oh, peachy with a side of keen.”

Faith laughed, then her face got serious. Her hands cupped Buffy’s cheeks, gently, and the weariness of Faith’s face suddenly became clear. It was shallow, gaunt. She looked dead on her feet.

“When did you sleep? Have you eaten?” Buffy rambled, knowing exactly what her lover needed. Faith shrugged, her thumb tracing the curve of her cheekbone. Their eyes found each other. Even though there were people around them, nothing seemed to exist beyond the two of them.

“I really want to go somewhere, to be alone with you, to see you. To take whatever this is away.” Faith whispered, her voice a mixture of sadness and need. Buffy froze. “Sometimes I need you so much, B. Like right now.” Her voice cracked, and she leaned back, looking into Buffy’s eyes, seeing inside of her. “But you understand.”

“I do, Faith. I do.” Buffy nodded, still shocked. “How did you know?”

“I just did. Feels sort of weird, knowing it’s you, but not seeing you or feeling that vibe.” Faith tilted her head to the side. “I need to do this alone.”

"I know you do. Honestly I do. I didn’t come here to interfere or to-"

“I know.”

“Faith something is going on here.”

“I know.”

“Really, I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

“B?”

“Hmm?”

“Go home.” Faith whispered sadly, and then kissed the end of Buffy’s nose, and then her face lit with her trademark grin. “Um, keep this around, whatever it is.” She winked, “No matter what you look like you are always sexy as hell.”

PART SIX

Sitting on the edge of the bed she absently ran her fingers up and down the arm of the man sitting next to her. Closing her eyes, Veronica could feel the rest of her coven waking with the rising moon and moving through the halls of the house. She had been up for hours, watching from the bed the autumn sunlight moving dangerously across the ceiling.

It was all coming together. Years ago she had come across the idea, sitting in the sheltered library of the motherhouse of the Watcher’s Council, reading the prophecy. Just like then she closed her eyes, envisioning the possibility of a vampire with the strength of many, the power to move more freely through the masses. The power she would possess. She had brought her findings then to those who she reported to, the oppressive men in their suits who sat behind massive desks, and they had scoffed at the idea. Disbelieving that it was even possible. They had no imagination, not the ability to think outside of their comfort zone. But Veronica had not forgotten, and when she was instructed to travel to Boston, to find the second Slayer, she knew it was more than possible, she knew that she was just bidding her time until it happened. Never had there been two Slayers. That should have been the warning the Council heeded, but they were too concerned trying to get Buffy Summers to fall in line with their orders. They paid minimal attention to Faith and the teachings Veronica forced on her. The Council was consumed by the power they believed they held, and had forgotten the old ways, forgotten their purpose. They blatantly ignored that Faith was the true Slayer, that the continuing line was within her, and if she never died, there would never be another Slayer.

The man beside her rolled over, looking up from the pillows, his eyes flashing yellow beneath his ridged forehead. Slowly she felt a smile on her lips as she watched him stretch, and then sit up closer to her, his nose sniffing the air. The young ones were always ruled by their hunger, and this one was no exception. His eyes focused on the unconscious girl laying naked in the corner.

“She looks like”-

“I know.” Veronica interrupted, her hand still moving up and down the strong naked arm. She enjoyed seeing her dark flesh against the paleness of his. “Are you hungry?” She asked with a smile, running her tongue over her elongated teeth.

“Very.” He smiled, and slipped off of the bed.

“By all means.” She gestured to the girl, and watched with a growing smile as he padded across the room, his bare feet tapping against the wooden floorboards, the way the muscles of his naked back moved with the slight swing of his arms. His gait was one of imagined power, as if there was nothing in the world that he needed to fear. She had thought of teaching him a lesson in obedience, but that would break him far too easily, and this arrogance he possessed was infinitely more important to her and her plans that watching a strong man break before her. She dealt with the blows he gave out more often than endearments over the past week since she had found and changed him, just for this purpose.

“Time to wake up bitch.” He said with a sneer, bending and lifting the girl by her throat, her head lolling back and forth, her black tresses covering her face. From her vantage point Veronica could hear the pitiful groans coming from the humans cracked dry lips. She sighed as he slapped her once, across the mouth.

“Careful, dear, she is only human. We wouldn’t want her dead before you get a chance to feed.” She offered, reaching to her right, pulling her knee high boots closer to slip them on her stocking feet.

“Shut up.” He growled at her, tossing a look over her shoulder, the feral look of his vampire visage making him appear even more frightful. Internally she sighed, biting back the need to walk across the room and cut the head from his shoulders. Instead of acting on the anger inside she laced her boots, not even bothering to look at him, as she heard another volley of strikes hitting human flesh, and then his low moan and the smell of copper that seemed to dance in the air.

Veronica walked over to the closet, carefully removing the pants, shirt, and belt. She laid them out on the bed, and turned as she felt him walk up behind her. She turned, smiling at his silly satiated grin.

“Be a dear and wear these today.” She said softly.

“So it's tonight?” He asked, wiping the blood from his lips with the back of his hand, his forehead smoothing, his eyes becoming blue again, and his face almost handsome.

“Yes.”

“I can’t wait to see her again.”

*****

Seven black Chevy Suburbans were driving north on US 1, cutting through the early evening traffic, shifting between the slower commuters, but remaining in a scattered line. Not one of the other six SUVs attempted to overtake the one in the lead as they drove. In the back seat of the lead SUV, he was looking over a map, using a low powered red flashlight, looking again at the notations that had been made on the paper before it was provided to him. With a question on the tip of his tongue, he looked to the leader of this team.

“What is it?” The man in the black fatigues asked, not looking up from the black gun in his hands that he was slowly polishing.

“How do you know that this is the correct place?”

“You have your sources, and I have mine.” The man offered.

“Sir, we are coming to the connection.” The driver said over his shoulder.

“Take North 128.” The leader said and slipped the gun back into the holder below his left arm. He then turned back towards the man in the suit, who still held the map on his lap. “Is there a problem, Mr. Balch?”

“Um, well I don’t believe so.”

“Good.” He took the map away, folding it while locking his eyes with Balch’s. “The Slayer should be coming this way tonight, yes?”

“She purchased a ticket for the train, so yes.” Balch nodded, knowing he already relayed this information to the strike team. His hands were unaccountably moist, and he rubbed them against the wool of his pants.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Balch. We are here to help her.”

*****

Giles heard the front door open from where he was sitting in the library of the house. Slowly he pushed back the chair, and stood, listening to Willow greet Buffy in the front hall. He could not hear the exact words that were being said, and set the book down that he had been looking through and made his way closer.

“No, there is no way!”

“There had to be something, Wills, she knew.” Buffy said, setting down her bag, and meeting his glance with a slow, small grin.

“Damn! I thought for sure that I did the spell right.” Willow mumbled, smacking her thigh, and turning back into the living room, to return to her guest.

Giles came closer, and set his hand on Buffy’s shoulder. It was good to have her back in Sunnydale. He felt her tense beneath his touch, and for the thousandth time wished that she had departed under better circumstances. He had just been concerned with her these past months since Dawn’s murder, and Faith’s subsequent departure. It tore him up inside knowing how much Buffy was hurting, how alone she felt. And he blamed Faith for that. That girl had run away again when things had become difficult, as she had always seemed to do in the past. Though he liked Faith, Buffy was always his first concern, and her happiness was paramount to him.

“Well?” He asked, removing his hand.

“I gave her the information, and then I left.” She shrugged.

Giles sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose. This was not what they had talked about. When would she listen to him, he wondered. “Buffy, I know you believe that this is what Faith needs, but I again find myself reminding you that you are the Slayer. If what the prophecy and the spell states is true, then we would have a formidable foe in Veronica, who understands the mindset of a Slayer, and who also may have a key into the belly of the Council. Leaving it up to Faith, well again I say that this is not the smartest decision.”

“And why is that Giles?” Buffy asked, crossing her arms, cocking her head to the side.

“This is serious now. This goes beyond a vendetta, this goes beyond a need Faith has to murder Veronica. This is something that could effect the entire fabric of”-

“We get it.” Buffy snapped. Behind her Giles could see that Willow and the others were coming closer.

“Buffy, really.”

“So your problem is what again?”

“You are the Slayer”-

“No, I am ONE of the Slayers. There is another one out there, and she is going to take care of this problem.” Buffy said, while clenching her jaw. Her hazel eyes darted to her friends, and then back to Giles. He could see that her mind was made up, but he had to keep trying. She needed to understand that this was not so simple.

“Buffy.” He started, but she cut him off stepping a little closer to him.

“Faith can do this. I believe in her, and you should to.”

“But she doesn’t believe in herself.” Giles said exasperatedly.

“And you wonder why?” Buffy snapped.

PART SEVEN

This was creepy, like Saturday Night made for cable movies. I swear this looked so fake, all of it. I was waiting for a chainsaw wielding maniac to come running from the tree line behind me. Or, I know, some group of misfit teens running with video cameras strapped to their chests. This just had to be the place. Not only because my cramps were strong enough to send the butchest bad ass crying to her mommy, but also that only Ronnie would take over a decrepit mansion that was as regal as it was creepy. It fit her and all the other clichés she lived up to like a glove.

Ivy that was dead for the winter covered most of the walls, leaving spiraling vines and rotting leaves over the stone and mortar. The trees surrounded the west side, and the east was some body of water, I wasn’t sure which. Bummer I didn’t spend more time paying attention in class when I was a kid. Candle light in the windows, the fog that clung to the ground was the real kicker, the Friday the 13th touch that really would have been missing otherwise. I could just hear the one-liners B would be coming up with, and then the scardey-cat machismo Xander would act out. If I weren’t so damn nervous I would crack a smile.

I had stood there, in Copley Square, clutching the manila envelop in my hand, watching someone else’s body walk away with my B inside of it. I had been a little freaked, not only that she had seen me, and talked to me when I thought she was someone else, but that B didn’t seem to be mad. When I had been whoring around, trying not to think about her, afterwards I would wonder how I was going to explain it to her, how I would make it up to her. In the arms of all those other women, and there were a lot of them, I had always been thinking about her, but would she get that? Would she still love me? And standing there, watching that other body walk away from me, I knew she did. I had felt it when I realized it was her, when that pouty mouth uttered words that no one but my B could string together, and I looked into those eyes, even though they were a soft honey brown, I could sense B deep inside, hiding, and I could see that she loved me. Probably would no matter what mistakes I might make down the road. That floored me, keeping my feet locked to the cobblestones, as she got further and further away from me. I had lifted my hand to her, part of me wanting her to come back, a part of me wanting her to fight beside me. With a growl I had turned away. Little insecure Faith wanted her to help, but she couldn’t, not if I ever wanted to get over this, not if I ever wanted to be able to hold my own beside her. That’s what B deserved, an equal, not another Scooby hanging around. So I had stomped off, my fist crushing the papers she had given me, reminding me that they were there. The library had been closed, so I sat on the cold steps, and ripped open the envelope. Skimming the pages quickly, reading the printed words, I found myself blinking, looking in the dark distance. B knew what she had given me, what I was up against, if this was true, and still she had walked away. That meant that she believed in me. This wasn’t about revenge anymore; this wasn’t about the betrayal I felt because Ronnie faked her death. This was big time. This was prophecies. B knew that, and the Scoobies had to know it too, and still she told me she was going, that she wasn’t going to interfere. The whole world would be fucked eventually if I messed up, and B walked away, believing in me. So as I sat there on the cold steps, my fingers wiped the tears from my cheeks, as warmth began to grow inside of me. Buffy, the great and powerful Slayer, who had been doing this longer than any other Slayer, granted she died twice, but she thought enough of me to walk away from something this important. I was floored, and awed at the same time. It took me a few minutes to catch my breath, and then I did head over to the magic shop in Cambridge to look through some of the books there. It all matched the information I now had, not that I doubted Red, or the others. I just had to be sure.

Now that I was sure it was a little scary. This wasn’t me rushing down an alley to dust a few vamps. This wasn’t me walking through a graveyard waiting for some newbie vamp to wake up. This was the big time. This was a house in the middle of nowhere Massachusetts, filled with who the hell knew how many vampires, all bent on performing some sick ritual and making damn sure that they succeeded. And I was going in there, completely on my own, knowing damn well that I had to stop this from happening.

*****

Buffy was sitting on the couch in the living room, her legs curled under her, resting her head on the back of it, her eyes closed.

Willow stood in the archway looking in, seeing her friend looking so calm, when she knew that she was anything but. Looking to the clock on the mantel she could see that it was eleven. It was already after midnight in Salem, and all of her calculations, that had been checked and double checked by Giles, proved that tonight was the night. She ran her hand through her red hair, before crossing her arms and leaning against the wall. She felt a hand on her shoulder and a squeeze.

“Hey.” Willow greeted softly.

“Hey right back. How are you doing?”

“Just great, why should tonight be any different? Oh, that’s right, there is a wacked out vampire getting ready to perform a twisted ceremony that by rites should be impossible, but hey, who’s paying attention. It will happen and it will make her pretty much unstoppable, and she will be able to turn a Slayer into a vampire. Why in the world should I not be bouncing off the walls, happy?” Willow offered, her voice dry. She stiffened as she felt arms slip around her waist, and then her body relaxed and she inhaled the soft perfume of the woman holding her.

“It’ll be just fine.” Came muffled from the lips pressed to her shoulder.

“Sure, so you say.”

“Wills, she knows.” Buffy’s voice came to them softly from across the room.

Willow looked up, to see a soft smile on her best friend's lips, her hazel eyes slowly opening to look across the room.

“She’s right baby,” brown eyes looked up at Willow’s green. “You just need some faith.” She grinned.

Buffy laughed lightly, as she unfolded herself from the couch and approached the two women.

“She’s right, Wills, have a little faith.”

*****

I kept to the outer walls, glad that this wasn’t some freaky movie, with boobie traps and shit. I just knew that if there was a string attached to a bunch of tin cans, I would have tripped it alerting everyone that I was outside. I was that tense. My hands were clenching open and closed, and I could feel the tightness of the muscles in my jaw.

Pressing hard against the wall as two vamps came out of a side door I held my breath and waited. I could hear them talking and walking. I figured by the sounds of the crushed leaves there was only two of them, and chanced a look around the corner. Yep. Two of them, dressed in long black robes, hoods over their heads. I watched them as they walked across the yard to another building, and they knocked twice. The door opened. I could see one vamp guarding the door, and then they all were gone and the door was closed again.

How fucking obvious. Let’s have the big ceremony in a building away from the main house, so we can’t easily secure the area. I rolled my eyes, knowing this was a trap. Hell, it would have made more sense if she had sent someone to pick me up and bring me out here. I knew from everything that I read, that after she did this ceremony that I would be on the menu. My blood sealed the deal.

I stood up straighter, and stomped across the courtyard. Why bother with the cloak and dagger shit? She knew I was coming.

I kick my leg out, the old weathered wood of the door shattering under my heel like it was meant to. I snapped the stake to my palm as I stepped over the threshold, and felt instantly the tingle of some magic spell. Everything slowed around me as the door and dust rained down on my leather shoulders, and I narrowed my eyes.

“Desino magus glacialis imperium, contego protego pia pium lamia occisor, expedio imperium, solvo tempero.” I said in a low and steady voice, knowing that the spell was now blocked. I could feel the freedom in my limbs to move again. Did she think I would forget that? And a stupid paralysis spell to boot? Maybe this wouldn’t be so tough after all.

I kicked out to my right, connecting with one vampire, and sending him crashing into the stone wall. I spun clockwise and thrust out, the stake sliding into another’s heart smoothly, and he began disintegrating as I turned and smacked the other in the forehead with the butt of the stake, hearing the crack of bone. He slipped down to the floor, out of it for now. I looked at where I was. Small hallway.

“Well I wonder.” I mumbled walking to the only door in the hall, and kicked this one open as well. No one said I knew how to make a quiet entrance that was for damn sure.

A familiar smell wafted through the now open door, and I inhaled deeply, remembering, as I stepped through the doorway, knowing this was it.

*****

“Oo. Do I smell brownies?” Buffy asked walking into the kitchen. Xander turned around grinning from ear to ear.

“And see I always told you that those super powers of yours could be used for good.” He said handing her the plate piled high of chocolate squares. “That nose could be used to sniff out chocolate all through the lands.” He took one as well, popping it into his mouth.

“Do you really think that is a good idea?” She asked poking him lightly in the ribs.

“Hey now. I am a growing boy I will have you know.”

“Sure.” Buffy grinned popping one into her mouth as well. “Ey, warnt eses hu twons wat aith wikes?”

“And the eew, you talked with your mouth full of brown stuff award goes to Buffy.” He quirked his upper lip in a smile. “And yes, these are the ones Faith liked. I figured, you know, you could eat a couple for her. Until she comes back.” He shrugged, and Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly.

“Thanks Xander.”

*****

I stepped into a long hall, and was full of about ten vampires. Not bad at all. I had been freaking out, thinking there would be hundreds in here. But ten? Sure it would suck, and I’d be sore in the morning, but ten was no problem.

I stepped deeper into the room, recognizing the incense. Red had burned this stuff before doing certain spells, and there had been a faint hint of it when I first got back to Sunnydale and my apartment. About every six feet along the outer walls stood ornate candelabras, and at the other end of the room was Ronnie standing in a black robe, the hood down, on a two tiered altar. Her hands were outstretched as she spoke.

*****

She had watched Faith step through the broken door, and take a few steps into the hall. Veronica continued speaking the beginning of the ceremony, but her eyes were riveted on the Slayer. Unable to pull her eyes away from the woman who had haunted her daydreams for years, she watched Faith as she shook the leather coat off of her shoulders, leaving her standing in tight black pants and a stark white tank top. Her words faltered slightly as Faith pulled a foot long knife from the sheath at her back, twisting her wrist lightly back and forth, the light from the candles catching and reflecting dots of light around the room. At one turn of her wrist, Veronica could see the altar reflected in the silver blade, she was standing but could not be reflected.

“Gathered are we, and from the four corners come gifts for those who will accept them. To those we offer bones of a master, water from a cursed font, earth from an unholy place, herbs cursed, and to solidify the union, the blood of the Slayer’s child.” Veronica motioned for the vampire beside her, who had placed all of the items in a chalice. He handed it to her, and she looked across the room, locking her eyes with those of Faith. In just moments it would begin. She looked down at the blackened substance, and then Veronica continued speaking. “When the ceremony is complete the morning sun shall fall upon me, and I will feel only the warmth. I will not burn, I will not perish. I will become the day walker. There will be no stopping me. Nothing will harm me. Not the wood, not the cross, not the consecrated waters, and certainly not the sun. Unstoppable I shall be, and nations will fall before me, armies will tremble in my wake, and I will end the reign of the Slayer.”

A low rumbling laugh filled the otherwise silent hall, and Faith took two steps closer. Veronica felt the power of the Slayer keenly, and for a moment contemplated what would happen if she happened to fail this night.

*****

“Yeah, like it would be that easy.” I said, loving the feel of the knife in my fist. The weight was perfect, so were the inlays of pine on both the handle and the blade. Gotta love having a girlfriend who knew what I liked, that was for damn sure. Gotta love even more that she slipped it into my bag that morning when I wasn’t looking.

“Easy? Oh no Faith, this was not easy. But it was prophesied a millennia ago.” Ronnie said.

“So was this the plan the whole time? I heard you mumbling something about the blood of the MY CHILD.” I yelled at her. “You planned to kill Dawn the whole time.”

“Faith, the blood of that child was powerful beyond comprehension, she was the child, born of the blood of two Slayers. Two! How inconceivable is that?” Ronnie said her face looking so excited.

“Not very. But her blood was a lot stronger when it was in her body, you bitch.”

“You can’t stop this Faith.”

“Maybe not, but boy am I gonna love trying.” I grinned taking a step forward.

“You are just as pretty as you used to be, even though you can’t keep your mouth shut.” A voice said from beside me. A voice that had no place here. Ronnie smiled down at me, and I slowly turned my head to the side, watching as he lowered the hood, as those blue eyes narrowed in on me, as those lips I remembered pulled back into a self satisfied smirk.

“Faith, you remember your ‘Daddy’ don’t you?” Ronnie’s voice laughed, but I was just starting at him, watching the robe drop away. He was standing there, dressed in those chino pants, that work shirt, and around his waist that thick black leather belt. My back muscles twitched seeing him standing there. The man who tormented me for years before I was strong enough to fight back. The man who had taken my innocence, the man who had taught me all about pain and humiliation. He was standing right there, and my guts were twisted in a knot.

“Ah, what a reunion. I made him just for you, baby girl.” Ronnie laughed.

I spun back around to face her.

“You made this thing a vampire?” I seethed.

“Surprise.”

“You made the one man I used to fear, the man who raped and beat and humiliated me, the man who broke my courage, the man who destroyed my mother, the man who nearly destroyed any sense of self worth I had, you made him a vampire?” I asked, my voice getting louder as I spoke.

“Of course. I knew you would”-

“Ronnie, I am gonna kiss you!” I grinned. “You made him the one thing,” I turned and glared at him, “that I am built to kill. Oh, I am looking forward to this you son of a bitch.”

I was fucking thrilled.

*****

Veronica watched as Faith hesitated, and it was enough of an opportunity for her stepfather to move in. His strong fists were raining down on her face, her shoulders, her neck. For an instant Veronica considered bringing his attack to a halt. She wanted Faith to be alive so she could drink her blood, turn her, and if she didn’t fight back that would not happen.

She moved to motion another of her minions closer, but stopped as she heard soft laughter coming from the Slayer.

*****

Under a strong blow I dropped to one knee, and still his fists came down on me. But I couldn’t help laughing. I was going to survive this. Sure his fists hurt, sure he was strong, especially now that he was a vamp, but he was not a god, not like I used to think he was. This was nothing. I could survive this. If I survived his beating as a child, if I made it out of that life with enough strength of spirit, with enough love in me to care for B and Dawn and the others, then I could make it out of here.

I grabbed his fist as it came down for the last time and looked up at him.

“And I think you’re all done hitting on girls, ‘Daddy’.” I twisted his arm, sending him through the air. Slowly I stood up, licking away the blood on my lip, and twirling the long knife in my hand. “Come on kiddies, it’s time to play.”

*****

He had slammed into her before he turned to dust, but it had been enough to upset her balance.

Veronica was on her knees, watching the inky liquid slipping down between the cracks in the floor. Her chance to fulfill a prophecy gone. Her plans, ruined. All because of one girl. One stupid weak girl. With a howl she rose, twirling the robe off of her shoulders.

“We will destroy”- She stopped, looking around the room.

Panting heavily, hair matted, blood dripping from a cut on her right arm was Faith. No one else was left, just piles of dust.

Veronica gulped.

“You never told me why. And funny that I don’t fucking care. Why you decided to become a vamp, why you tried to open the Hellmouth, why you wanted me so bad. None of it matters. All that matters, Veronica, is that I am going to kill you.”

“You can’t.”

“Look the fuck around. You see anyone here who is gonna stop me? News flash. I am a Slayer, you are a Vampire. Get where I am going with this?”

“No.” Veronica could not believe that in mere minutes everything had fallen apart.

“Shut up and fight me you bitch.”

*****

I lunged forward, but she was pretty quick, and managed to kick the knife from my hand. I heard it clatter off to the right side of the room, just as my neck snapped to the left under the power of her punch. I gritted my teeth and turned back to her, glaring at her game face.

“You always drop your right, Faith.”

“I know, had to let you at least get one hit in. See, I am nice like that.” I shrugged, blocking her next blow and turning sending my elbow back into her gut. I followed with a back kick, and she fell to the ground.

“Remember last time we did this? Remember me breaking your leg, Ronnie? Remember how you had to run away?” I kicked her, sending her flying back, and she landed against the altar, splintering the wood, and sending the little ornaments scattering across the floor. “You can’t possibly think you are going to win.”

“Why not?”

“Please, you are a nothing vampire. Not a master, not some Big Bad. You are a sad little vamp who thinks she is so smart. Look at me!” I yelled throwing my arms out. “I am a Slayer!” I grabbed the back of her neck, digging my fingers into her flesh and lifted her up, so we were looking eye to eye.

*****

“This is for Buffy, and Dawn.” She felt the pain, and looked down. Faith’s wrist was protruding from her chest. Then she felt it. Veronica howled, throwing her head back as she felt fingers gripping around her heart, and then the tug. The snapping of arteries, the icy heat moving through her veins. Looking down she watched as Faith’s hand came out of her chest, with her heart in it. “Go to hell.” Faith whispered, and then Veronica was no more.

*****

The heart turned to dust in my hands, and I dropped to my knees. I was still breathing pretty heavy. Now that I was alone I let myself gasp for breath, and released the sob that had been sitting in the back of my throat from the minute I saw him standing there, still managing to tower over me.

I looked down at my hands, seeing my knuckles split, two fingers on my right and broken, but it didn’t matter. These hands were still strong. They had fought back. I had fought back.

I am a Slayer. Not a second best, but one who is needed. Who can and will do the job.

Boot steps rang out against the stone walls, coming from the door in the corner. Slowly I rose my head up, to see six shadowy figures come into the room. My vision was clouded by the concussion I knew I had, that and the blood and ash on my face. I couldn’t make out their faces, or even if they were vamps. I closed my eyes slowly, listening. They were breathing. Opening my eyes again I glared at them. Humans, who seemed to be lining the walls. Dressed all in black. What the fuck was happening now?

Another one came through the open door. God I wish I could see his face, to be able to tell if they looked like they were freaking out, seeing me in a big room, beaten up, bleeding. My eyes rounded as the one who came in last slowly raised his right hand. I saw the candlelight flash against the metal barrel of the gun, the gun he was pointing at me.

*****

Willow ran down the hallway, making her way to the kitchen after hearing the scream. She could hear the others behind her, and they all stopped staring down at Buffy who had collapsed on the kitchen floor. Her face was hidden behind her hair, but they could all see her shoulders shaking with powerful sobs.

“Buffy, what is it?”

*****

He turned, lowering his gun to face Balch who had just stepped into this long hall. With a grin he slipped his gun back in the holster and said, “Call Travers. Mission accomplished.”

...continued in This Faith...

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