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The Other Way

by Ann
Rating: PG

Disclaimer: The characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer all belong to Joss Whedon and whoever else made them up. (Not that anyone cares)
Author's Notes: Don’t expect there to be a strong story element just yet. This part is more of a big introduction to my series. This is the first part of a my fic which is an ‘alternate universe’ to that of Bad Girls. If you haven’t seen that ep. you might want to before reading this. It’s not important but you might wanna refresh your memory on the storyline. Keep in mind my fic doesn’t follow the orignal storyline-well, obviously.

The sun began its slow decent towards the western horizon. A soothing breeze tugged at her long blonde hair. The dusk air was sweet with honeysuckle. Buffy breathed in deeply, it felt so peaceful just being here. But despite her best efforts, the night before kept on creeping back into her mind.

The police had never caught up with her and Faith after the incident yesterday, but it still didn’t stop her from feeling anxious. Despite all that she had seen and done, even the littlest things could still really get to her.

Upon leaving Willow at her house, Buffy was suddenly struck with even more guilt. She hadn’t really given Willow a fair chance lately. She had far too many other things on her mind to worry about. She quickly scolded herself for the remark, being a good friend to someone shouldn’t sound like a chore.

I should call her once we’re done at the warehouse.

Willow had been trying hard to become useful again. The protection pendent for one, but that hadn’t impressed Buffy that much. Would that thing protect her from one of those vamp swords? Not likely, despite the witches’ growing power. The sun had fully set when Faith had noticed Buffy's odd silence.

“You’re awful quiet tonight.”

“Uh, I just want to get this done.”

“That’s cool but try to lighten up a bit. You’re creepin’ me out.”

Buffy couldn’t help but notice the familiar looking longbow Faith was wielding proudly in her hands.

“I can’t believe you went back for that stuff... What we did last night... I don’t wanna go through that again.”

“Don’t worry. We won’t. I got everything I need. I even picked up that combat knife I saw you eyeing. You still want it? It’s at my room at the moment though.”

“Uh no, you keep it. Somehow I just don’t feel as invincible as I felt yesterday. I wanna try and stay on the right side of the law if that’s okay with you.”

The younger slayer's eyes shifted back towards the ground. Somehow, that wasn’t the response Faith had been expecting. She didn’t really want Buffy to think of her as a low down criminal, though her actions had never done otherwise. Buffy hadn’t said it straight out, but Faith could easily read the subtext.

Noticing her friends sudden silence, Buffy tried to quickly reprimand the comment.

“Um not that it wasn’t fun last night. It was all great apart from the being arrested and then running for our freedom part. You getting it at all?”

“...Sure. I’m sorry about that. I never meant for you to get in any trouble with the cops.”

Buffy didn’t say anything. She had actually been in trouble with Sunnydale police quite often. Probably not as many times as Faith, but nonetheless.

“That’s not true. You weren’t there when I was wanted for murder. That was such a drag. Not to mention the time when...uh.”

Probably not a good idea to share my whole criminal record.

Faith grinned at Buffy's expression. It was a weak attempt at making her feel better, but Faith managed a smile.

The girls rounded a corner and found themselves standing outside of the Bronze. Faith quickly hid the long bow behind a bunch of crates. Cops patrolled the area quite often, the last thing she wanted was yet another confrontation. She could see it now, ten of Sunnydale's finest trying to enforce their dumb laws on her. Faith had always been untouchable. Her thoughts were interrupted when she felt Buffy pulling on her arm. She wasn’t wearing a jacket this evening, just some pull-on sleeves which seemed to say pull-off in Buffy's eyes.

Even though she knew they had places to be, Buffy couldn’t resist dragging Faith towards the club.

“Wha...? Buffy what’re you doing?”

“Let’s have fun.”

“Huh?”

“Baltha-whata can wait a while. Let’s just do this.”

“Guess I can’t say no.”

So in just a few milli seconds of convincing, Faith let Buffy lead her deep into the Bronze. The evening was almost a repeat of the night before, but Buffy was evidently under stress of some kind. The light Bronzing had managed to get her out of the crappy mood she was previously in, but she still seemed about a 4 in the Fun-O-Meter.

“Hey, you wanna lighten up a little?”

“Oh I’m up, and also quite lightened, but I just don’t feel that great at the moment.”

“That run in with the cops still bothering you?”

“No, not really. I don’t know what’s going on with me. I just feel kinda down.”

“Bet I could cure that.”

“Oh really? Show me.”

“Alright then. But remember, you did ask.”

Buffy watched as Faith's eyes slowly moved away from hers, disappearing into the crowd, beckoning her to follow. The strobe lights flashed wildly, she was barely able to keep track of her counterpart. Soon Buffy lost sight of her all together, all she saw were other teens, dancing to the beat, in a trance. Everything was dark, the music deafening, the lights flashing, resembling lightning. It was like a storm. A fantastic storm under the slayers control. Yeah, she was liking this a lot.

As she stood alone in the expanding dance floor, she whispered under her breath.

“Faith...?”

As if from nowhere, she heard the familiar voice come from behind her. Even with the stentorian music which seemed to come at her from all sides, she distinctly heard the hushed reply.

“How about it girlfriend? Wanna show them what it is to be a slayer?”

Closing her eyes, listening to her words, Buffy smiled as she gave in to the surrounding darkness which enveloped them both.

“... Let’s go...”

Buffy fell underneath the trance of the music and felt Faith slip her arms around her waist. She responded letting herself lean into Faith's body. The music’s rhythm suddenly went up a notch, and so did the slayers. Their motions matched its pulse as they danced fluidly on the black dance floor.

Soon, Buffy was only mildly aware of the impressed on-lookers. All that existed was them, surrounded by the hum of the music. Their spectators gazing with desire and unmistakable interest. The vibrations of the music controlled their movements, telling them to dance hard and like it. She felt her dance partner move in close, feeling her warm breath on her ear as she whispered.

“Not too bad B...”

*****

Both girls left the Bronze on a strange high which they had never experienced before, at least not in each others company. The slayers laughed, embracing their power. This feeling was indescribable for Buffy.

So...this is what being a slayer really feels like...

She smiled to herself. Even though she had been a slayer for over 3 years, she had never really asked herself what she liked about it. She put so much energy into believing that it was the biggest burden in history. It took another slayer to make her face the truth.

She loved her power. She loved being the slayer. It was like a drug. It made her superior. To get into fights with these monsters, knowing before a single punch was thrown, who would emerge victorious. She liked that feeling. A lot. She also liked having the new yet strangely familiar company of the ‘zesty’ new slayer.

“What’re you smiling about?”

Buffy blushed when she realised she had been grinning widely in her own little dream world.

“Uh... just thinking about stuff.”

“What stuff exactly?” Faith asked coyly.

“Slaying.”

“What about it?”

“... I was just thinking about it.”

“Why’s that?”

“No particular reason. Just that we seem to be doing it a lot lately.”

“What’re you getting at? You wanna stop?”

“No, oh I don’t know.”

“C’mon B.” Faith urged.

“...I’ve been thinking about slaying. I’ve never felt this way about it before.”

“And?”

“I like it.”

Buffy couldn’t help but notice the grin which seemed to suddenly appear on Faith's face.

“I could’ve told you that! What with that look on your face after a good slay!”

“What?!”

“Come on B! It’s written all over your face. You dig it even more than I do.”

“Not possible.”

“Yeah? Then why are you walking so fast? Stake at the ready and all. I don’t think jacuzzi boy is goin’ anywhere.”

“I... What are you talking about? I’m not walking fast.” Faith gave a knowing smile and slowed down, watching Buffy stride on ahead.

Buffy slowed her pace after realising the brunette had just happily proved her point.

“Okay, so I just wanna get this over with. What’s wrong with that?”

“You’re just dying to use that thing aren’t you? You can’t hide it B. I know you too well now. You want everyone to know your power. You’re embracin’ that darkness. So, how does it feel?”

“Alright! So ‘I’ve found the fun!’ You were right.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t quite catch that, what with me being so self absorbed an’ all. Would you like to repeat yourself just so that the world can hear you?”

Faith playfully leaned in to catch Buffy's answer.

“Come on! I’m not gonna let you rub my nose in it. Now hurry up. I’m just itching for a good slay...”

“There’s my girl...”

They both exchanged smiles before breaking into a sprint down the back alley’s of Sunnydale. Despite the cool air blowing over their bodies, they were both burning. The adrenaline in their systems reached an all time high. The stakes in their hands were almost turned into sawdust enclosed in the slayers' powerful grips.

Faith ran ahead of her friend into the alleys. Yelling jubilantly up towards the midnight black sky.

“This is how it is! Just you and me B! The chosen two! We can’t be beaten! We’re gonna rule the world!”

Not hearing an answer, Faith slowed to a stop and looked behind her. Buffy had apparently fallen over.

“Well, one step at a time I guess...”

She walked over, grinning at her partner's clumsiness, but suddenly noticed that Buffy appeared to be unconscious. A small patch of blood was visible on her side.

“Shit! Buffy? You okay?!”

The panic showed in her voice when she spoke. But almost immediately Buffy began to stir.

“... Damn vampire... Since when are pointy swords allowed?” She grumbled.

Faith quickly adopted her fighting stance when Buffy mentioned a vampire.

“Where?!”

“HERE!”

Faith was slightly startled when a reasonably large vampire jumped in front of her. He wasn’t looking to fight her though, he seemed more interested in having a small chat with her first.

“Where is the amulet?! You stole it from us! You have angered Lord Balthazar! Dishonourable wrench! If you don’t hand it over we’ll-”

Trying to control her anger, Faith shot back menacingly.

“You’ll do what vampire? You can’t touch me!”

“Then in the name of Lord Balthazar, DIE!”

But before the vamp knew it, Faith had leapt onto his shoulders with his head in a firm grip between her knees. She grabbed a conveniently placed bar above her head and lifted the vamp just inches from the ground. The vamp roared in pain as Faith twisted without holding back a single ounce of strength. His head came right off of his neck, and barely touched the ground before turning into dust. Almost giddy, she then comfortably landed back onto the floor. Her attention immediately went onto Buffy, who had found her way off the floor and was watching in awe.

“What?”

Faith couldn’t stop herself from laughing at Buffy's expression.

“I... you... What is it with you and grabbing vampires heads between your legs?”

“I’m just skilled when it comes to that kind of thing.”

“I bet you are...”

Faith bowed triumphantly before gesturing to the nasty looking wound on the blonde's side.

“You feel okay with that?”

“I’ll be okay, it’ll slow me down a little though.”

“Is it deep?”

“Nah, I’m cool.”

Not really wanting to argue with the other slayer, Faith turned away, scanning the rest of the alley for more vampires. Buffy nodded in agreement, even though no words were spoken.

“Yeah there may be more. I don’t think we could take them all if they made a full on attack. We better go. We don’t even have any real weapons.”

“Stake is all I need B.”

“What about your long bow? Where d’you leave it.”

“Screw it.”

“Well, let’s just hope they come one at a time then.”

They steadily made their way through the dank alleys. Each setting each vamp they came across perfectly for the other to slay. Till they were suddenly attacked by a vamp in a suit. He wasn’t with the others, but a vampire was a vampire in the slayers eyes. Faith acted with reflex and easily tossed him in the other direction. He gasped as he hit a dumpster with a heavy thud.

That was a bit easy... Or maybe I’m just gettin’ stronger.

As always, Buffy was ready with the stake gripped tightly in her hand. She lunged toward him with the wood pointed in his direction.

No...

Faith, suddenly realising their error tried to warn Buffy before the unimaginable happened.

“Buffy no!”

But the warning was far too late. The stake slid into his mortal heart and a look of surprise and horror washed over the young man’s face.

“Oh god...”

Buffy's chest went tight. It became hard to breathe. What have I done?!

She sunk back into the shadows of the alley and the stake fell from her now loose grasp. It dripped with fresh blood. Faith rushed over to the man, her hands wavering over his fatal wound.

“D...don’t move! I gotta try and stop the bleeding! Oh god...”

A pleading look was coming from his eyes. He looked like he wanted to say something. His mouth moving but no words came out. He didn’t look angry or scared, he seemed more sad than anything else. Tears formed in Buffy's eyes.

“I...I didn’t know... I didn’t know!”

Slowly, the man slumped down further against the dumpster and his laboured breathing ceased.

He was dead.

Frozen with fear and disbelief, Buffy felt like curling into a ball and just praying that she’d wake up. Struck with panic, but still having the ability to move, Faith grabbed Buffy by the arm, forcing her out of her daze.

“C’mon! We gotta go!”

Buffy was reluctantly pulled down the alley in a dizzy sprint. The world seemed to spiral out of control and she had no idea what was going on. She couldn’t see anything. Couldn’t feel anything. The pain in her side had become numb, her breathing raspy. Not being able to run anymore, she fell to the floor in a crumpled heap of emotions. She could see Faith looking at her. She was saying something, but she couldn’t hear her voice. Faith looked desperate, pleading at Buffy to get up.

I’m sorry Faith... I can’t go on...

Faith looked on in confusion as Buffy slowly blacked out.

“Buffy! No! Come on!”

Seeing no response, Faith almost turned and made a break for it. But she wasn’t going to do that. Not to Buffy. After all they had been through together. She couldn’t just leave her here. Wincing slightly, she picked Buffy up and supported her beneath her shoulder.

Okay. We’re out of here.

She knew they had to move fast. They had drawn a lot of attention to themselves before when they were in front of the Bronze. Everyone had seen the two slayers in the area before it had happened.

Damn it!

They were instant suspects. Faith would have to do something about the guy. But not now. She had to get them out of the alley’s and fast.

We’ll go to the motel. I guess I can fix up her wound myself.

She broke into a jog, dragging a limp and seemingly lifeless Buffy by her side. They were quite far from the centre of Sunnydale, so there was little chance that anyone would recognise them as the ever elusive slayers. Of whom seemed to be getting into a shit load of trouble lately. It wasn’t new for Faith, getting in trouble was as common as breathing to her. But even she was freaked at their current predicament. This was way worse than anything she had ever done.

What I have done?

It hardly felt right. Her darker side was screaming at her to just walk away. She hadn’t been the one who killed the guy after all.

So then why am I still here? I could’ve left by now. Avoid all the hassle.

The answer hit her like a knife in her gut. Then, as if on cue, Buffy stirred slightly and began to say something, Faith quickly fell silent. She automatically stopped, thinking that Buffy was coming to.

“F...Faith...d..don’t leave me...I can’t...do this...alone...”

Guilt washed over her instantly. How could she even think of leaving? She was about to respond but Buffy quickly passed out again. She had stopped bleeding but her fellow slayer was looking really pale.

It took almost ten minutes to get to Faith's motel room. Buffy's passing out hadn’t made things any easier. She quickly got to work on her friend's nasty wound. It was a clean cut but she was sure it would hurt like hell once Buffy returned from where ever she was in that head of hers.

Silently, Faith lowered herself on the end of the bed next to Buffy. She made sure not to cause any potentionally painful vibrations for Buffy's sake. Her breathing had finally turned back to normal, but the panic was still there. A lump in her throat. A thorn in her shoe. She knew she was never gonna be able to stop this pain.

She was shaking. Desperately hanging on to who she was. Afraid of what she might become if she let her mind slip. As if physically trying to hold on, she gripped tightly on to the motel sheets.

This was just too much. She looked at her hands. Blood. Just Buffy's blood, but it still made her feel stained and dirty, like something’s inside of her which she just couldn’t get out. All she could do was worry about how they were gonna deal.

She stepped outside, suppressing the sick feeling in her stomach as she set off to do what was necessary to keep them both out of trouble. She didn’t want to go back there, alone. But Buffy was in no position to help her with this morbid task.

She had to get rid of the evidence.

Breathing out softly, she made her way back to the alley. It suddenly got really cold and she held herself in her arms as she spotted the guy. He hadn’t moved. But why would he? He was dead for christ’s sake. Was he gonna get up and be okay just because she wished he would? No.

Suppressing the urge to run in the other direction, Faith shook her head and knelt by the young man. She stared emptily at him. It still hadn’t really sunk in yet. This man died partly because of her. This man.

He had a heartbeat.

He had a soul.

He had a life.

He breathed.

He felt pain.

Now it was over. His expensive suit was all bloody and ruined. His eyes didn’t blink anymore. All because they had missed the fucking mark.

Something suddenly caught Faith's attention. A white letter protruded out of his pocket. It wasn’t hard to miss. It stood out so much from all the red blood surrounding it. She watched her hand as it shakily reached out and pulled the letter from the guy's pocket. She watched as her hands pulled apart the edges of the paper, exposing a hand written message.

To the Slayers... This is a warning of the upcoming event which will take place in the next hundred days...

Suddenly, the sound of police sirens caused her to drop the letter. A gust of wind blew it into the street and she cursed as she saw it drop into a sewer opening. The sirens became louder and she decided to hurry up. Grimacing slightly, she picked up the limp body and dragged him into the shadows. Silent tears ran down her face as she made her way towards the docks. And for the first time since Faith had been here, the heavens opened.

*****

Buffy woke up startled by her new surroundings. It was dark in the room, lit only by moonlight. Rain tapped the window and she could hear it falling on the street outside. She moved to get up but was held back by a sharp pain which seemed to rip through her side. Beads of sweat glistened on her forehead. Her eyes slowly filled with tears. She felt so confused. Where was she? Why did she hurt so much? What was that thing lurking in her memory which her mind was trying so hard to push away? She closed her eyes and spoke into the darkness.

“Are you with me?”

“... Always.”

“What happened?”

“It’s best not to talk about it right now. I took care of it.”

“Took care of what?”

“.......”

“... Why do I hurt?”

“You were injured.”

“Why can’t I remember anything?”

“You’ll be okay.”

“No. Tell me.”

“You don’t want to remember just yet, trust me.”

“No, it hurts. Why does it hurt?”

“It was a deep cut.”

“I’m not talking about the cut.”

Buffy placed her hand across her chest, unconsciously digging her fingers into her chest. Her tears finally showing as they fell softly onto the sheets.

“Why does it hurt in here?”

She felt the uncomfortable silence return. But eventually she heard an answer.

“...Coz of what happened.”

“... How long has it been?”

“Just a while. Everyone knows where you are. You’re staying here tonight. I have to watch over you.”

“You’ll...stay with me right?”

“I’ll never leave. I’m always gonna watch out for you. You should rest. Try not to think about stuff. The pain will become worse if you do. Just be quiet, still.”

“You should know I guess...”

“Lifetime of experience B...”

*****

The ex-watcher walked nervously around the ‘Summers’ home. When Faith had called yesterday she told him that Buffy was staying over at hers for the night. She said it had been a rough patrol and they would take care of the Balthazar demon tomorrow. At 8 pm sharp.

He glanced at the clock somewhat frustrated. They were an hour late. He debated in his mind whether he should give them a call or not. Faith was a freelance slayer and wouldn’t really take to his authoritative approach. But this was important.

With a sigh he reached for the phone and cleared his throat once he heard the somewhat depressed greeting.

“Downtown Motel Apts. How may I be of service?”

Giles shook his head. The voice on the other side of the phone was monotoned and sounded reasonably fed up. Hopefully the conversation would be short.

“Er, may I be put through to room 3 please.”

“Wouldn’t count on anything. They’ve been in there all day. They won’t answer the phone.”

“Just try. Please.”

“...Fine. Hold on the line Jeeves.”

Americans...

Soon enough he heard the familiar sound of Faith's voice on the other side of the line.

“Yeah?”

“Faith, it’s Giles. I thought we were supposed to meet tonight to confront Balthazar.”

He heard her sigh heavily down the phone.

“God, I’m sorry Giles. I totally forgot. Give us a bit longer will ya?”

“Of course... Is everything okay Faith?”

“Uh yeah. Five by five.”

“Okay. Oh, Wesley would like to have a word with you as well.”'

“Great, just what I need.”

“Well... be careful. We should probably meet at the library instead.”

“Sure. See you later.”

Giles’ frustration had become concern once he heard the slayer's voice. There was definitely something wrong, but he wasn’t one to push. Especially when it came to Faith.

*****

Hesitantly, she lowered the receiver down. She spun round quickly once she heard the familiar voice break the silence.

“Who was that?”

“Uh Giles. We were supposed to meet him over an hour ago. For slaying.”

Buffy curled into a ball on the bed. Her slashed side still hurt a little but that wasn’t what was bothering her. Faith quietly watched her reaction, it was evident that Buffy finally remembered what had happened.

“What’s the matter?”

“Tell me that it didn’t happen.”

“...My word doesn’t count for much,” Faith joked weakly. Buffy carried on.

“I’ll have to see Giles soon, won’t I?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t wanna have to face him.”

“It’s okay, he doesn’t know.”

“But I’ll have to tell him. And, even though I know it’s gonna be hard, it’s gonna be even harder to keep it from him. I’ve...never let him down like this before.”

Tears began to slowly fall from the curled up slayer. Faith became overwhelmed with sympathy for her friend. She shook her head sadly.

She doesn’t need this.

“I don’t know what to say B. Maybe we shouldn’t. Not yet. We shouldn’t have to face them now.”

“Why? You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“We’re in this together. Remember?”

“You shouldn’t have to put up with my hang-ups. Just go.”

“I thought you wanted me to stay?”

“That was before...uh...”

“It’s okay B. I like it here.”

“You can’t be serious. I don’t want you to have to worry about this.”

“S’okay. Come on. We gotta go meet them.”

“...Right.”

Faith's expressions were un-readable, showing hardly any emotion. Something was up with her. She was planning something. Buffy carefully broke the silence, disturbing Faith as she was getting dressed.

“Is there something else going on with you Faith?”

“Well of course there is B. We went through something yesterday we shouldn’t have. I hate having to deal.”

Her tone was harsh. Her mood had suddenly switched once Buffy had mentioned confessing to Giles. Yeah, there was something going on in Faith's head which she wouldn’t let Buffy know.

“No. It’s not that. What’s going on with you?”

“Nothing. Come on. I already told you to get ready.”

Buffy nodded reluctantly in reply. She’d play along for now, but Faith was gonna have to start telling Buffy what she was really thinking.

*****

Giles reached the school library shortly after his phone call with Faith. It required all of his will to stop himself from scoffing at the young watcher's greeting.

“What are you doing here?”

“Despite the fact that you are the official watcher, you can’t stop me from doing my job.”

“And what is that exactly? Stacking books?”

Wesley grinned at his own wit. Giles replied casually, fighting the urge to throw a book in Wesley's direction.

“Watching out for Buffy and Faiths’ safety and well being. Something you should probably try once in a while.”

Giles looked at Wesley for his reaction. He loved winding up the little wanker. But the reaction he got was slightly different to the one he was expecting. Wesley's jaw had hit the floor, and he was suddenly very red and flustered. His mouth began moving but there was no sound coming out.

“What? What is it?”

Eventually, all Wesley could manage was shakily indicating for Giles to look behind him. Giles’ eyes rolled before he even turned around.

“Let me guess. There’s a lovely bunch of vampires’ behind me wielding very pointy swords. One long one short?”

Giles’ gave an exasperated sigh as his suspicions were confirmed. There was a substantially large crowd of grumpy looking vampires eyeing them both angrily.

“Bloody marvellous.”

*****

“You okay there?”

Buffy looked up to see Faith's concerned expression.

“I’ll live.”

If Faith was gonna be all cryptic then so was she. But her stubbornness was cut short when she clutched her ribs in pain. Faith scoffed at the display.

“Yeah, cuz you look great. Hunched over in crippling pain an’ all. Why don’t you slow down? You’re gonna pop those stitches.”

“If I can’t even walk then how am I supposed to slay?”

“Slay? You’re joking right? You can’t do a thing with an injury like that. You’re only coming because I can’t watch you if you’re in the motel room.”

“Since when did you become Miss ‘Wait, Stop, Think’?”

“I dunno. Maybe it’s because I learn from the best.”

Buffy scoffed and shook her head angrily.

“Find a new hero. It’s over for me. I’m done.”

“Real mature B. Look, I know it hurts now but it’ll stop.”

“What makes you think I’m even thinking about that now?”

“C’mon B. You’re hanging on by a thread. You’re not slaying anything tonight. Stay at the library with Giles and Wesley.”

“You can’t go alone.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“No, this is my job.”

“I’m serious. If I have to worry about you while I’m fighting I’ll get screwed for sure. You can try and come with me but I will stop you.”

“You....think you can take me?”

Faith looked at the ‘hunched over and struggling for breath’ Buffy questioningly, then shook her head softly.

“This is stupid. Come on, I’ll help you walk.”

If it wasn’t for the sharp pains shooting down her side, Buffy would have made a remark and declined the offer, but she really did need the help. She reluctantly let Faith support her beneath her shoulder. They walked in silence for a long time.

Despite using all of her strength to fight back the tears, they softly began running down her face. The wound was a painful reminder of what had happened that previous night. Buffy practically choked out the words which finally showed her pain.

“He came out of nowhere...”

“I know...”

*****

“We’re here!”

Faith forcefully pushed the doors to the library open with a swift kick. Buffy was still brooding and Faith was becoming tired from her lack of sleep. A look of concern took over her features when she heard no answer come from the library office.

“Faith... Look.”

She followed the blonde's worried gaze and quickly adopted the same expression. Neatly laid out on the table were two swords, their blades crossed together. One long, one short, and both covered in glistening blood.

*****

“Mr. Giles!”

Wesley shrieked loudly as he watched Giles fall to the floor after being hit by a mean right hook.

“Mr. Giles! Are you okay?”

“Ow! Of course I’m not okay!”

“What do we do now?”

“SILENCE!”

Startled by the loud voice, both watchers quickly looked behind them and gasped in surprise. Wesley managed a whimper before promptly passing out. Giles huffed and eyed the crippled demon curiously.

“Lord Balthazar I presume?”

“Correct! Now Mr. Watcher, let me tell you what I want to see. My amulet is gone, and I know you know its whereabouts! I suggest you tell me where it is if you want to keep both of your kneecaps.”

Sighing heavily, Giles could only stare at the dusty concrete beneath him while he grumbled a reply.

“WHAT WAS THAT?!”

“I SAID GO TO HELL!”

“Thank you but no. I’ve been there. It’s quite lovely this time of century. Would you like to see?”

“Oh great...”

*****

“Faith! What are you doing? You can’t go alone.”

“I can and I will.”

“There’s too many! I’m coming with you.”

Buffy was close to tears as she watched Faith filling up a duffel bag with the library's best stock of weapons. This wouldn’t be happening if she had done her job properly yesterday. Faith returned the look sadly. Slowly, she walked up to where Buffy was sitting. She softly held Buffy's face with a single out stretched hand.

“I can’t use you.”

“But you need me.”

“You’re probably right. I’ll always need you. But not now. Not like this. I don’t need you to die.”

Shaking her head slowly, Buffy wept into Faith's hand.

“But, what if you don’t come back?”

“Hey, I’m a big girl now. Five by five. Right?”

“But...”

Faith quickly shook her head.

“No matter what happens Buffy...stay strong, live...for me.”

“... Faith... I...”

But she had already disappeared through the library doors.

*****

Using her weakening will power, Faith had managed to keep her tears back. Her mind was writhing in her inner turmoil.

“Faith?”

The slayer quickly whipped round and felt her fist connect with cool flesh.

“Angel! Oh god! I’m so sorry! You okay?”

Angel staggered slightly, clutching onto his jaw in pain.

“Uh, I’ll be okay...later.”

“I’m so sorry! I have a habit of doing that. So anyway, what’s up?”

Angel, still rubbing his jaw line nodded half-heartedly before speaking.

“I saw you walking. I got bad news. They got Giles.”

“I know, I’m on my way there now.”

“Alone? The must be about 15 of them in there. Not to mention Balthazar. Where’s Buffy?”

“She’s not up to the challenge yet. She was injured kinda badly yesterday.”

“She okay?”

“She’ll be fine. Look, sorry about your face and everything Angel but I gotta go.”

“I should go with you then.”

“Fine. Just hurry up If anything happens to them I...”

“I know.”

*****

Buffy sat alone in the library trying to figure out what just happened. She hadn’t just let Faith run off to get killed did she?

Faith...

Gasping from the shot of pain which seemed to strike her side, she lifted herself off the chair and made her way towards the library doors.

*****

Wesley had managed to become conscious long enough to tell the large demon that a man had his amulet. Angrily, Giles had knocked him to the floor shouting that he would get them all killed. Wesley could only whimper again before fainting from the shock of being whacked by the angry watcher.

“THIS IS UN-ACCEPTABLE! YOU WILL TELL ME THE NAME OF THE MAN WHO HAS MY AMULET!”

“His name is Angel.”

Angel and Faith entered the warehouse with full confidence showing in their eyes. Faith looked pissed, and Angel was in a full game face.

“GUARDS!”

Suddenly, they were on the attack. Cross-bow bolts were flying everywhere, as were Angel's fists.

“Faith! Over here!”

She quickly glanced round the large warehouse until her eyes met with the watcher. He indicated to the large knot which bound his hands together. Faith swiftly broke the knot with her bare hands and slapped Wesley hard in the face to make him wake up. In no time at all both watchers were ready to leave. But before making a quick exit, Giles hastily pointed out to Faith that Angel was in trouble. She nodded in recognition and grabbed a dagger which lay on the floor beside her feet.

“Ahhrrg!”

Angel cried in agony as the large demon held his head in a death grip.

Taking just a few seconds out to take aim, Faith flung the dagger at the demon's head. It hit him dead on in the back of the skull. He dropped Angel instantly, of whom was left groaning and rubbing his head as he lay on the floor.

“You okay there big guy?”

Faith grinned at her own skills but her expression turned to concern when Angel gave a look of horror when he saw her.

“What is it?”

“Faith! Behind you!”

She whipped round in time to see a left over vamp running at her wildly swinging a sword in his hand. She evaded it by mere centimetres and slammed a stake into his back. He lingered in time to give her a warning.

“When he rises, you’ll wish lord Balthazar had killed you all!”

He shortly afterwards exploded into ashes. Faith merely shrugged her shoulders.

“They never just die. They always gotta say something.”

She flashed a grin at Angel who had recovered and grinned at her back.

*****

Buffy had been slowly making her way towards the warehouse. She wasn’t really in anymore pain, but she was trying desperately not to pop her stitches which Faith had carefully done herself.

She arrived at the warehouse only to find Faith, Angel, Wesley and Giles walking out, all in one piece.

So much for playing hero...

She was about to call out to them when a vamp suddenly burst out from nearby crates and punched her hard in the face, knocking her hard onto the pavement. She lingered around in time to see Faith dusting the vamp and then asking her if she was okay. She tried to respond but unconsciousness quickly ensued.

*****

It was cold tonight. All she had on was a small t-shirt and leggings. Her stake was gripped tightly in her hand. Angel was lagging behind, he seemed troubled.

“What are you doing back there?”

“It won’t wash off,” Angel replied, softly shaking his head.

“What?”

“The red. I try but it won’t wash off. Even after so many years of trying.”

“Maybe you should try using something else.”

Angel nodded in agreement before pointing at Buffy's hands.

“Look, it’s much darker on you. You’re worse than me.”

Buffy looked down at her hand and recoiled in disgust, dropping the gory stake on the ground. Her hands were covered in the rich, dark blood.

“How can I get rid of it?”

“It shouldn’t be there in the first place. Such a dark stain. That’s never gonna wash off. How could you get so dirty?”

“I didn’t mean to!”

“Are you sure killer?”

“I’m not a killer!”

At that moment a strong hand came down hard on her shoulder. She turned and tried to stop herself from screaming.

It was him. It was the man she had killed. He looked straight at her. His eyes emotionless. He spoke with a snarl on his face.

“Do you see? Do you understand what you have done? You’ve ruined everything. It’s all gonna come crashing down and the one you love will be the first to suffer!!!!”

“The one I...? No! I’m sorry! Just...just tell me how to make it better!”

The man grinned in response. Angel came up beside her.

“Tell them what you did. Then suffer the everlasting consequences!”

Buffy broke down onto the cold ground crying, drowning in her own tears. Until she began to hear a familiar voice.

“Buffy! Snap out of it!”

The voice was so far away. She doubted that she had the ability to travel all the way towards it.

“Help me...”

She felt someone take her by the arm and she was suddenly pulled out of that bad place.

*****

Her eyelids felt heavy, and she was dripping with cold sweat. The calming hand which had pulled her out of her nightmare gently removed itself from her arm. After a minute of gaining her breath back, she could only manage to call softly into the surrounding darkness.

“Am I back home?”

“Finally yeah. Welcome back to the world of the living.”

“You’re still with me right?”

“I’m talking to you aren’t I?”

“... I saw him...”

“... His name is Allan.”

“Allan... Does Giles know? I need to tell him.”

“... He knows.”

“How did he find out?”

“... I told him...”

“...oh...uh.. What did you say?”

“...The truth... He had to know what I did...”

“What...you did?”

“Shh, don’t worry about it anymore. You’re Buffy. You shouldn’t be going through this. Bad stuff shouldn’t happen to you. Not now, not ever.”

“But...”

“Don’t worry. Didn’t I tell you I’d look after you?”

“No! You can’t!--”

“Already have... But don’t worry. I’m not sticking around here. Listen, Giles is coming over to see you, he doesn’t know where I am. You have to promise me you won’t tell him what really happened.”

“...Why are you doing this?”

“PROMISE ME!!!”

“I WON'T!!”

Buffy broke into desperate sobs. Why was this happening? How could things possibly get any worse in her life?

Faith slowly made her way over to Buffy and sat down warily beside her bed. Gently, she took Buffy's hand into her own. Tears began to roll down her face, something Buffy had never seen her do before. Yet her voice remained perfectly controlled and calm, as if she were unaware of her falling tears.

“Buffy, listen. You’re gonna forget I even exist, that I was ever in your life you understand me?”

“.........”

“I might be younger than you but my life was over years ago. It doesn’t matter to me anymore... All that matters to me is that you’re happy.”

“.........”

“Promise me that you’ll take care of yourself. You’re a good person. You got yourself a great life going here, don’t lose it like I did.”

“.........”

“...Time to motor. See you around B.”

Wiping away the other slayer's tears, she slowly bent over and kissed her on the forehead. And silently, she climbed out of the window, not once looking back.

...continued in Acquiescence...

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