Dancing In The Dark
by Anne
Rating: R

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and any others who own the characters of BtVS, I'm just dabbling. Please do not sue. Anything Cruel Intentions is owned by Columbia Pictures. I wish Coyote Ugly was mine but no such luck - Touchstone got there first. No copyright infringement is intended.
Spoilers: BtVS, Coyote Ugly, Cruel Intentions, a little Bring It On. If you're gonna do a crossover...
Author's Notes: This is a crossover fic, but I have tried to write the characters so they make sense even if you haven't seen some of the bits. And it's written from Faith's point of view :)
For: My sister, Katy, who came up with the seed of the idea, here's to cigarettes and alcohol and the family curse.
Thanks To: Rochelle, for being kind enough to beta this for me.
Feedback: Please. I keep sending all this stuff out - let me know if I am boring you :)

Was there ever a moment after the first when I got her out of my head, out of my system? I don't think so. Eight months in a fucking coma and she was still there with me all the way. Okay, it was my fucked up way, but I always liked the idea of never giving her a choice. Always wanted to be the one to take her to the edge and to make her pop like warm champagne. As long as she would pop all over me then I would be happy. But I got it into my head that there was no way that was ever going to happen. And so I did the only thing that I ever do well. I fucked things up again. All my life I've been having a good run of bad luck. But I guess everyone has a breaking point you know? If I had managed to kill Angel then I would have wound up dead not long after. I know it, I can feel it. Borderline Schizoid, that's me, and it's become a matter of staying on the right side of the line. Always. That's where I wanna be now, on the right side.

Don't get me wrong. A quick stint in the poky didn't make me a saint overnight or nothing. Hey, I can trip over to the Dark Side whenever I want, I can always see it there, like it's just in the corner of my eye or something. That's what makes it all so difficult. And I don't know what I am going to do tomorrow or the day after. I just know that I get through today, just like Angel said to me a long time ago. Make it through the next five minutes. Then the next ten. Now I make it through whole days.

I miss him. It's been a long time since we got together. That's why I keep his voice in my head. I need that bit of him like I need that bit of her in there. Totally different reasons of course. Angel is the good bit, the encouragement that leads me on. She is the bit that reminds me of what I lost and never to make the same mistake again. She's the one that stops me from going back. Every day she is there. The picture of her never goes away, never fades like memories are supposed to. What image is the one that lasts? Oddly that time we were training in the library, and that asshole Scott had broken up with her. I knew that she didn't like him all that much and yet she was on fire. I wanted that. Oh and I got it all right. I got that fire, and it was blazing with hatred. She looked at me in the cop-shop that last time and she still didn't believe me, still wanted me dead.

Look at me, a quick patrol and now I'm sitting here thinking too much and getting drunk on Strawberry wine. Not my usual taste, but I wanted something sweet tonight, something that reminded me of her I guess. I'm still hanging out in shitty motel rooms and they are still fucking Spartan. But they are enough for me now. Still have no ties, except to the Slaying, and I never had a problem with that. I just follow the news, learn to spot the signs. B works the Hellmouth and I'm freelance. There, I said her name at last. Even when I say it to myself in my head it chokes me up. Years since I have said it out loud, felt her roll off my tongue. Slow, easy. B.

Tomorrow I'll be off again, this place it pretty much done and dusted. For the time being anyway. So it'll be the greyhound bus to the next big city, little bit of working the drive-through to get some cash, slaying by night. It's a shitty routine, but it's mine. And for once I am satisfied that it's enough for me. Given up on the mom and the Scooby gang, the watcher. There is nothing that some tight ass in tweed can teach me now. Hell, I've seen it, done it, know both sides of the coin. I got me and that is pretty much all I need.

If she ever needs me then I know she'll find me. She has that way. The whole *Buffy* thing that you can't quite put a pin in but you know it's there. She may want to settle old scores, she may want to sort things out, make things right between us again. If she comes looking for me and things are like the last time, there'll just be a new slayer in town. We've fought to the death before, hell I've even got a scar to prove it, and I can make the choice without her help this time. Her or me? Her. Always. She is the Chosen One. I'm the consolation prize. See, there goes the Dark Side calling me again. Tough shit. It's not taking me; I don't go in for the self-pity crap any more. Slug back the last of the drink and settle down under the covers, stake at my side. I got a busy day tomorrow. Next stop New York City.

When I wake up I am sweating and that was one hell of a dream. Regular, not slayer. One of these days she will disappear from my nights. She hates my guts and every night I spend it with her. She'll never know that. Probably make her disgusted with me even more, if that's possible. It hurts me that I care this much about her. I want to take her into my arms all this time and just hold her close. Nothing sexual, that's what makes her so special to me now. I just want to be able to lie in those arms, give her a kiss and feel like I belong. I want her to feel like home to me. I have to snort to myself when I realise that some of the sweat covering my face is really tears. Never a day goes by when I don't think about her.

New York. The Big Apple. I can smell the stench of death the moment I hit the tunnel coming in from Jersey. All the upper east-side sweetness can't take it away. This makes LA look like a kindergarden. This is the kind of place where I need to watch my back. It's also the kind of place where I can slip away. Now, I got about a hundred bucks to my name and no place to stay, so I have to move fast. I want somewhere by nightfall. Jobs? There are jobs everywhere, the sort where they pay you cash and don't ask your name. I reckon they don't even remember your face from the moment that you walk out of the door. I've spent the past two years living like this and I know the drill. No longer that kid who had a crush on her. I know how to stand on my own two feet now.

*****

I need a drink. I always need a drink once night falls. This is a 24 hour city, and after the first few nights I learn that the vamps don't come out until about three am. Until then, it's too busy, too light, and people get too cautious here. It's not until the dawn approaches that the people who are left out are easy pickings, the kind that drop their guard. The kind that have nothing to lose anyway. And there are plenty of people like that here. 'So what's the rush?' is the guess I'm taking on the way that the vamps around here see it. So I need a drink and I need to kill a little time.

I finally get to the bar and order a double JD. The drink of the desperate, the ones who no longer care, but have the cash to get away with it. I got lucky last night. Got a vamp who's wallet dropped out before I dusted him. A coupla hundred should see me through a few days but I still need a job, something to last me the long haul here. There's vamps and demons to keep me busy for a few months I'm guessing. That's when something goes right for me for the first time in ages.

"Your last week Zoe. It's going to be hell trying to replace you. Sure you don't want to stay?" A job on the offer, and this looks like my sort of place. It's only 9pm so I'm guessing it gets busier later. And I am a night person after all. I call the blond woman over. She's got to be about thirty I guess and has that 'no messing' kind of look that I like in a woman. It's kinda like looking in a mirror too.

"Did I hear you have a job opening?"

"Why? You interested?"

"Yes, I am."

"You ever worked in a bar before?"

"No but I've drank in plenty."

"That usually makes for the worst type of barmaid. Come into the back anyway." She taps on the bar for me to climb over, and I slug back the rest of the JD. Once we get into the back, she's as hard as nails. "You do any drugs?"

"No."

"Let me see your arms."

"What the..?"

"Just roll up your sleeves." I do as she says, seeing as it's either her way or no way. And a job's a job. "You're clean."

"Good. I was thinking, you'd be wanting a urine sample next."

"I prefer blood." I feel the chill run through my veins when she says that, all senses on the alert. Nah, she's as clean as I am. I can sense a vamp, and her hands are warm on my wrists as she checks my arms.

"Fuck you," I say before I can help myself. There is something about this woman that brings out the old me.

"Well, well. You have the look, almost. And you have the attitude. My name's Lil. Be here at eleven tomorrow night. That's when we start to get busy."

"You're giving me the job?"

"I'm giving you an audition." I can't help myself from smiling. This woman has got a pair on her. "Now either go back out there and buy yourself another drink or get the hell out of my bar. I've got a business to run."

*****

I get there at eleven sharp, and the place is heaving more or less, just as I expected. This is pretty public and I'm wondering whether this is a good idea. This many people means I could get recognised too easily if word got out. And then it would be time to move on. I turn around and see Lil is standing there.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, erm, looking for you actually."

"Good, follow me." I walk behind her and it's about the only way to get to the bar quickly. Everyone in here seems to know just who she is. She climbs over the bar and I follow her, glad I wore my leather trousers. Once there she slings a drink at a regular and turns to me. "There are two rules. One, you don't sleep with the customers. Second, never bring your boyfriends into my bar. From now on you are to appear available, but never be available."

"Sure." I nod thinking that these will be the two easiest rules to follow. The slayer life is hardly relationship friendly. Besides, there has never been anyone since I got out of prison. The slaying makes me hungry and horny still, but I get myself off afterwards now. There is no hand I want touching me that isn't hers. In *any* way. I watch as Lil picks up a speaker from the back of the bar.

"Hey. Listen up. Shut up!!" she pauses as the bar quietens down. "Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to meet my new girl! Her name is..." she pauses when she realises she doesn't know and leans into me.

"Faith." I whisper. I watch as she considers it for a second. Then she nods.

"Faith," she yells through the mouthpiece. "Faith is a former championship cheerleader all the way from Los Angeles, a USA gymnastic champion and has finally decided she needs to dedicate her life to having fun instead of just waving her pom-poms. Does anybody want to buy her a drink?" I have to laugh out loud as the crowd roars and starts surging towards the bar. She pushes me out of the way and starts to serve. I realise that is about all the training I'm going to get, and it's time for me to start work. This is the sort of place where you have to learn to stand on your own two feet.

This one pretty wicked fucked up place. So far we have got up twice on the bar, with Cammy calling out all the moves to me, and it's a good job I like to dance. The only one I haven't seen on the bar yet is Lil, but I guess she can get away with it. And then I manage to have a run in with Rachel. I suspect it's the first of many. She is a bitch through and through and reminds me more than a little bit of the me that walked into Sunnydale with a chip on her shoulder almost too big to carry. You see, I know I am working undercover here, just to get the cash to make the Slaying possible. So I am playing the new girl the best way that I can and that bitch is pushing me every step of the way, throwing her snippy little remarks as well as the bottles my way. I know that Lil is watching her and smiling, I guess it is part of the test. If you can make it through the first night without either crying or hitting the New York bitch then you've done pretty well. I never cry but I am coming close to sending her flying across the other side of the room.

"Can't you go any faster?" snarled Rachel as she pushed passed me, causing my hips to slam into the bar as she took the drink I had just poured and gave it to the punter and took his cash. "Hey Lil, I don't think your new girl can hack it." I glance across to Lil who laughs at Rachel and I think that this is just part of the banter, part of the game. Part of the audition. I just happen to not give a fuck. You don't go through five years of slaying without learning to twiddle your stake. When the next guy calls out his order I decide I am going to put them all through their paces.

"Lil," I yell, "JD! Rachel, Jim Beam!" They both throw the bottles at the same time and I am looking straight ahead, arms stretched out at my sides. And I know they are both waiting for the crash that just ain't ever gonna come. Instead I catch the bottles by the neck, spin them up over my palm, so they are facing down and bring my arms together, moving the mix over the six shot glasses in front of me. When I get to the last one I spin them back out and shoot them down the bar to Rachel, who only just catches them in time. I push the glasses forward and slide my elbows over the bar. "That's thirty-two even," I smile at the punter who whoops at me and then slides over the cash. As I put it in the till I see Lil looking straight at me, a crooked smile playing on her lips. I know that I have passed the audition and I know why. Shot shooting skills aside, Lil is as queer as fuck, and after that little display she wants me. I smile back as she extends her hand.

"Welcome aboard Faith. You've got the job."

"Thank you," I push my palm into hers and smile back, looking over my shoulder at Rachel who mouths 'fuck you!' at me. I think I am going to like it here.

I've had about fourteen double JD's after Rachel pointed out to Lil that I had refused one of the customers who had offered to buy me a drink, and I notice that now Lil is keeping one eye on me, and so is Rachel. Despite being a hardened drinker even I am starting to feel it. But everyone else is keeping up better than me, and they are having beers with theirs as well. These are some girls.

"I don't know how you do it," I say to Cammy. "I can't take much more."

"Simple. Every time someone buys you a drink, toast it with a beer. I don't swallow, just spit it back into the bottle."

"Be careful what you do with your spittoon though Faith. Cammy once gave hers to Lou by accident and all hell broke loose." Laughed Lil from behind me. I have to laugh as well.

"I think I've just fallen in love with you Cammy." I smile, glad I'll be able to make it through the evening without making too much of an ass of myself.

"Oh, I'm not a lesbian. I played in the minors but never went pro," grinned Cammy as she bounced off.

"That wasn't what I meant," I groaned, then realised that Rachel was smirking at me. And I suddenly had a pretty good idea just who Cammy had been playing with.

By the end of the night I am juiced, and I am really looking forward to patrol. Lou has just kicked the last of the punters out of the door, and everyone else is starting to wind down as I go around clearing the empty bottle and shot glasses from around the room. Lil is leaning up against the pole on the bar, knocking back water, and surveying the damage. "You did well for a first night. Even better than you did on yours Rach," she says slyly, looking at Rachel who is sitting cross-legged on the back bar counting the takings for the evening. Cammy sniggers, nearly choking on the tequila shot that she is drinking. Looks like Lil quite likes the idea of adding fuel to the fire, and I can't help but wonder why, maybe she thinks that a competitive attitude will be good for business, but part of me knows it's just for the hell of it. And because she will get off on the tension between us.

"Yeah, right!" snorted Rachel. "If she did any better that's because I was watching her ass all evening."

"Well," I turn round, folding my arms across my chest and quirking an eyebrow, knowing that if I want to fit in I have to play the game as well as the rest of them. "When you're ready to upgrade from looking to touching, you just let me know." Cammy splurts the rest of the tequila across the bar, narrowly missing Lil, who is almost doubled up from laughing. I look Rachel in the eye and I know that I have just made things that little bit harder for myself. But in a good way. Lil stands up on the bar, wiping the tears from the corner of her eyes.

"A toast." She raises her glass. "To my newest Coyote! Faith." She swallows the rest of the glass and the others follow suite, even Rachel. I want to smile as I feel a warmth in my gut, and for the first time in years I know it is nothing to do with alcohol.

I pocket the two hundred bucks that Lou gave me, and I feel rich all of a sudden. It's about three AM, and I know that the streets downtown will just be starting up with Vampire activity. Even after everything that I have done tonight I am still out looking for a good slay. The first target is pretty easy to spot, seventies clothing from the first time round, and the way he crosses over the road as he walks passed a church. Wicked obvious. I'm in the mood to play for the first time in years. I kick a can and do my very best helpless and lost in the big bad city routine. Works like a charm and he comes to talk to me, back-tracking.

"Hey, you shouldn't be out here on your own at this time of night." His voice is all full of concern, but I can tell, after all these years in the business. "Let me walk you home. Really," he holds up his hand to me, "It's no trouble." I let him walk with me a couple of paces, and notice the opening to an alley up ahead. That is where he will make his move. I can feel the stake pushed in my waistband digging reassuringly into the small of my back, within easy reach. And sure enough, when we draw level with the opening he pulls me in, not caring whether or not I scream. Do you know how many people scream in this city each day? And the reply is always the same - nothing. But I don't scream, just let him push me into the wall and then jerk my knee up so that it connects with his groin and he doubles towards me. I grab his hair with one hand and pull his head back, my fist slamming into his neck and sending him sprawling across the floor.

"Slayer..." He springs back up. "I thought that you were a myth."

"What can I say? I like to keep a low profile. And when I have finished with you, you won't be able to tell your friends that I'm real. Kinda like Santa but without the presents, you know?" I'm always surprised when they don't just run off. They always want to be the one to kill a slayer and I really believe it clouds their judgement. So he's flinging himself at me and the stake is out of my jeans and into his heart before he even has his hands on me. I pull the stake out, raising my arm back high, the way I always do. I like to get the stake out before they crumble. The quick one - two movement. And then he's just a big ugly pile of dust on the concrete. I tuck the stake back under my jacket and head of on the lookout for the next one, ears always peeled for any scream that no other motherfucker in this city is going to answer. I can see where Angel and Buffy got off on the helping people trip now. Took me a long time and a quick stint in B's body to understand that there can never be too many heroes in this world.

When I get back to my hotel room I open a new bottle of cheap bourbon and pen a quick postcard to Angel, just to let him know that I am missing him, and that I am doing okay. Once I would have thought that was a sign of weakness, showing that I actually cared something for him. Now I see it as a sign of friendship. The girl has come a long way. And then the exhaustion hits and I fall back on the pillow and just crash for the rest of the day.

*****

Two weeks worth of money from this job and I am thinking about getting a room. Okay, it won't be much good, but I think I have enough saved to pay for a month in advance. And I am starting to like the idea of a place of my own. Funny, it's never crossed my mind, always being on the run from one thing or another, but now I feel like staying put for a while. I got a steady job that I enjoy, an equally steady destiny I am fulfilling to the max, and the strangest sensation in my gut. Kind of like satisfaction but more than that. I find myself thinking of how great it would be if B came to find me to sort things out and she found me as this 'reliable' Faith, with her own place to invite her back to. Got with my own hard earned cash and not just because I beat the crap out of some guy before he saw it coming. I think that she would like this brand new Faith, and finally have a reason to believe that I had changed for good. And then I think about us walking the streets together, linking arms as we strolled up Broadway, slaying together like we did before I fucked it all up. Relaxed and easy together. Friends. Sometimes I even allow myself to think of her taking me into her arms and holding me there, telling me how much she cares for me, and should we think about getting a place together?

Reality tends to kick in then, telling me that it is never going to happen, but the thought is nice while it lasts, and I still like the idea of getting the place just in case. Besides, Cammy has told me of a couple of rooms that are going near her, pretty cheap and above all, understated. I still need to be low profile. I haven't let a vamp get away yet, but it's early days. At some point one of them is going to grow a brain cell and realise that something is going on, and that something might just be that there is a slayer in town. Even if I am supposed to be a goddam myth.

I walk through the door, give Lou a kiss on the forehead and laugh when he pulls away in surprise. "Hey man, I'm feeling good tonight. You got a problem with that?" I smile at him and he pushes me inside. "Hello people, what's the what?" It slips out before I realise it, and for some reason I feel like a teenager again. Lil raises her eyebrows, polishing the glasses ready for what promises to be a big Friday night. I hop over the bar, smack Cammy on the ass on the way and go into the back room to take off my coat. "Rachel coming on over later?" I call through the door.

"Yeah, she's starting at eleven tonight, so you'll have to go for a few hours without your usual dose of bile." Lil sticks her head round the door. "Think you can handle it?"

"I think I'll manage," I say to her through the mirror as I flick back my hair. "I noticed some people already starting to line up outside. Big night?"

"Looks that way. You up for it?"

"You know me Lil," I walk over to her, putting my hands on her waist, teasing her just a little bit because I know she likes it. "I'm always up for it."

"In that case I want to see your ass shaking on that bar tonight." She pulls away from me and flicks at me with the cloth.

"Count on it Boss."

So I am up on the bar, trying to ignore the fact that Cammy is wearing the shortest skirt I have ever seen, stomping my feet with the rest of them and wearing Rachel's cowboy hat. Swiped it clean of her head coz I figured it would piss her off. She won't touch me and I won't touch her. But I like to bring out the bitch whenever I can. And that's when I see her. B. Walking through the door, and looking around. She's dyed her hair brown and it suits her. Sends a shiver through me. If she's in here with the undercover shit then it's probably me she's after and not in a good way. The music ends and I pull Cammy up from where she somehow got between my legs and we leap off the bar as the orders start to roll in. I think about running, but know that if she's made it this far, she'll go the distance. I put a twenty into the register and turn to face her. Yes it's me she has come to get a drink from. I look into those eyes and think I am going to throw up. I feel my gut clench as I realise it's not her. "Cover for me," I blurt to Rachel as I run out the back, leaning my head against the cool reflection of the mirror and try to settle the spinning in my head. She has a fucking double who walks into the bar just to scare the shit out of me.

"You okay Faith?" I turn around and see Lil leaning against the door frame. "She seems to have given you quite a shock."

"Long story."

"You two have a history? I can see her from here, she's still at the bar. Pretty."

"No, we don't have a history. She just reminds me of someone I once knew. A long time ago." Lil just nods, and I like the way she understands. Knows where to draw the line.

"Ready to go back out and face wannabe demons?"

"Yeah. Tonight's like every other." I walk out there and I can tell that my timing is not going to get me any awards tonight. As I walk up in front of her she knocks back the last of the drink and winces. "You want another?"

"Jim Beam on the rocks." She's not Buffy. I can smell the money on her straight away, hear the cut in the accent that tells me this is usually the sort of place that she wouldn't be seen dead in, and I wonder if she had the chauffeur drop her off at the door. This is a hard drinking place where girls dance on the bar, not the fucking rotary club. I'm thinking all this as I sling the shot over the ice, and slide it towards her.

"Four bucks." I was right. She gets out a roll of twenties, and slides one over the bar to me, letting me get a glimpse of those immaculately painted nails. I look at the dress she is wearing, and I realise she makes Cordy look as if she shops discount. This girl has class that places her even further out of my league than B. I slide the change back to her. "What's your name?" The question is out before I even get chance to put my brain in gear, and instantly regret it.

"Why should I tell you?" There is the tone to her voice that makes me feel like shit and reminds me of the last confrontation I had with Buffy. The superbitch act - she's got it down.

"Hey, no skin off my nose," I shrug and start to move my way towards the next customer.

"Kathryn." She says to my back. I turn to her with a smile.

"Nice to meet you Kathryn." I extend my hand with a smug smile, and know instinctively that she will pause for a second before taking it. But when she does, the grip is that of someone who is used to being in control, the soft palm pressing against the whiskied stickiness of mine. I'm about to say something else when the jukebox kicks in and I hear Lil yell "Get your ass on the bar Faith." I let go of Kathryn's hand as she mouths 'Faith' like she's committing it to memory. Now I know why she is in this place. She has come here to get something that she can't get anywhere else. As I slide my way down the pole I hear the whoosh of Rachel setting fire to the bar again and notice Kathryn jump back. Has she found what she was looking for? I don't know, and I don't have time to care as I leap up to stop the flames from scorching my ass.

She stays in the same place at the bar all night, watching and waiting, and drinking slowly. It becomes obvious before long that she is waiting for something, but not necessarily someone. Every now and again I catch her eye and it always amazes me just how much like B she looks. When she finishes her last drink, she just mouths 'See you later,' to me while I am picking up empty bottles of Bud from the far end of the bar. I smile and nod, hoping so. The amount of people who come onto you in this place just because you work the bar means you tend to make a habit of ignoring them all. Well, I do any way. Don't know if I can say the same for Cammy even if she is supposed to be in love with Al. She was born to flirt. I guess like I used to be.

"So," says Lil, as she walks over and wipes down the bit of bar next to me. "You gonna tell me what that was all about this evening?"

"Do I have to?" I don't think I could explain it even if I wanted to. There is so much about my history with B that I cannot put into words. Not even in my own head, so I know getting them passed my lips is not even an option.

"No you don't have to. I just don't want any trouble in my bar that's all."

"Big love, big loss." I shrug trying to make it sound as if I am over it, but at the end I have the shakes in my voice and I think that Lil hears it too. She must have because she just nods and walks off. I wonder if she has been there. In her own way.

"Come on people, time to go. Lets get the hell out of here. Everything locked up? Everybody got their money? Right then." Lil grabs her coat and heads for the door. As I walk passed Rachel she silently hands me three hundred bucks. I don't need to count it. I know it is all there.

"Thanks lover," I wink at her.

"Whatever."

I get out of the door and set off down the block, noticing that the steam is still coming up from the street, and that there is someone around my corner. I feel my blood start to pump, always thinking that this might be the last time, this time it may be some vamp who has discovered me and has decided to take me out. More often than not it's just a homeless dude looking for some cash, but in my line of work, you don't take any chances. Cover your ass and keep your back to the wall. As I round the corner a hand touches my shoulder, and I swing out, knocking it off as my other arm swings up and I have my attacker by the throat. The light is poor but I always know just where to hit. "Faith!" comes the distinctly garbled female voice.

"Kathryn?" I let her go, cursing myself.

"What kind of fucked up sick psycho are you?" She rubs at her neck and I know that she will be bruised tomorrow.

"Fuck. I'm sorry, I thought that you were someone else."

"I supposed that makes it okay then." She doesn't even bother to disguise the sarcasm.

"Come back to mine and I'll get some ice to put on it."

"Finally. I thought you'd never ask. Though here's a tip. Next time, try just inviting me back for coffee. It makes for a better atmosphere."

*****

"So, are you gonna tell me why a girl like you is lying next to me in a shit-hole like this?" I rolled over onto my side and propped myself up on my elbow so I could take a good look at her. I wanted to know what was going on in that pretty little head of hers. I was trying also to take a break from thinking, knowing all along that if she came back with me then this would be what would happen, and knowing that it would not be her that I was thinking of. I guess she wasn't thinking about me when I was going down on her either, but that doesn't make it any easier on my newly grown conscience. It was as close to being with B as a loser like me would ever get, but it wasn't quite the same. The body was as perfect, probably the sweat on her skin tasted the same, but that slayerness wasn't there. It was a different kind of connection. And I had to remind myself all the way through that Kathryn wasn't B and she couldn't take the same things that I knew Buffy would. Didn't have the strength in her body to squeeze me until I'd pop, to do all those things that at various points since I met her, I have wanted B to do.

I always thought with B it would be a mutual thing too. Kathryn just used me to get off, and shagging a barmaid that she picked up from the sleazy part of town was probably as kinky as she gets. She never touched me once except to rake those damn perfect nails along my back, her lips never kissing any more than mine. Afterwards I realised that I was stupid in even trying to find out what B would have been like, so I lay there for a while, a little more than unsatisfied, feeling like a fucking walking dildo, and kicking myself because I had known deep down inside all along that I would feel this way.

I look her in the eyes as I wait for her answer, wondering whether she will at least have the decency to tell me the truth, or whether she has some sugar sweet bullshit to feed me. She sighs, raising her arms above her head, stretching her body taught, the sheets pulled down to her waist. "I was bored."

"Thanks," I smile, glad that she gave me the answer I wanted. I let my hand trail patterns on her stomach, knowing that she will want some more in awhile, and wondering what the fuck we are going to talk about until then. I know that I will do it again, because just looking at this body it reminds me of her, and I need the memory. Every day. And I'll make her come again just because I feel so fucking guilty about using her the way that she is using me.

"You wouldn't understand."

"Why? Coz I work a bar and Daddy won't be sending the limo to pick me up from here in three hours time? You do have a limo, right?"

"Yes, I have a limo." She smirked at me. I remember that smirk.

"Life's just a little bit too perfect for you, huh?" my hands make their way up to her breasts as I take a guess at what is going on inside her head. "So you have to pick at it a little, find something that will give it an edge, like fucking strangers you meet in a bar because all the college boys you'd get through instead would just ruin your reputation."

"You guessed it," she snorted. "I'm the Marsha fucking Brady of the Upper East Side, and sometimes I just want to kill myself."

"Don't bother. Just fuck me again instead." I don't know why the words leave my mouth like that, or just at what point I started playing the game with her, but I lean down and kiss her, and she opens her mouth for my tongue straight away. She needs the dirt and the grime of this room as much as I do, just not for the same reasons.

*****

I'm lying there alone after just like I knew I would be. Watched her as she got dressed, slipping herself back into her little rich girl clothes, while I just sat back and smelled the sweat on the sheets already turning stale. She had got out of bed when the lights from Daddy's limo had swept across the room, and her body looked like the most perfect silhouette I have ever seen. Correction, second most perfect. And once she's dressed she walks back over to me and slides her tongue into my mouth and says thank you. I half expect her to throw a couple of hundred dollar bills onto the nightstand next to the bed. I am glad when she doesn't, and have to stop myself saying "Call me!" as she walks out of the door.

Now I can smell her on my skin and the sun is about to come up. I missed patrol tonight. Fuck. I know that I should really get up and do something because if I stay here for much longer I won't get up all day, just sink lower into the darkness that I feel coming over me. I wonder if I will ever get her out of my head, or whether the rest of my life will be like this, chasing my own shadow. Chasing her shadow. Never quite getting to touch her life again, and when things like Kathryn come my way, it opens the wound like it would if she had stuck my knife in me only yesterday. Without thinking I trace my fingers lightly over the scar under my breast and I can't feel anything, and I can feel everything all at once. I wonder how her fingers would feel touching that pale slice of skin. Would I finally feel something there again? Part of me wishes that she could do it, and that it would make the scar finally go away, like all my other battle wounds.

Sighing, I heave myself out of bed and make my way to the shower, knowing that it will be another twenty-four hours before I can finally sleep again. But today is a new day, and I have a lead to follow up from yesterday. A nest would be better to attack in the sunlight anyway. Without thinking too much why, I turn the shower up to its highest setting feeling the water scald my skin, reddening it almost straight away. Burning her off me as if soap alone could never do the job.

The nest is where I thought it was, and I don't even hesitate these days before I burst through the door. Slaying is as instinctual for me as thinking of her. It is the part of my brain that works on its own, hand, fist, kick. So I throw my body weight against the door, going through it easily, and watching the flames rise from the couple of passed out vamps lying closest to me. "Rise and shine people," I hear my voice say and then my gut becomes hollow once again as I remember. With no-one to finish the punchline, I just get back to the business in hand. The old hatred burns inside me again, and I clear out the nest in less than ten minutes.

*****

"Did you sort out the old demons?" I am getting changed and I hadn't realised that Lil had walked in behind me. Hadn't realised for the very reason she was talking about. I wonder how long she has been standing there.

"Not really." I turn to face her, pulling my top over my head. "It's a demon I have been trying to catch for the past couple of years, and I get the feeling it's one I will be chasing for the rest of my life. Sorry." I realise just how deep that sounded. I'm used to keeping those sorts of thoughts locked in my head. It sounds strange hearing them actually pass my lips. I find myself missing Angel. There has been no-one to talk to for a long time, and it all seems to eat me up from the inside the more I try to keep it in.

The place is packed so badly tonight that I know even I am going to be tired later, and pouring the drinks has become automatic for me by now, so I plan the route for tonight's slayage instead. Think I had better go for the routine patrol, minimum risk factor. Kill a couple and then hit the sack. Sounds like a plan to me. I slide the shot glasses between Cammy's legs to a group of sailors who are obviously de-mob happy tonight. They knock the shots back and order some more, and I am running my ass of trying to keep the drinks flowing while the other girls do the bar-top entertaining. I turn my back to put the cash in the register, and then I hear a shriek and spin on my heals. Obviously some of the guys to think that this is more of a lap-dance bar than just a place for fun and they have Cammy off the bar, and are passing her over their heads. "Fuck," I hear Rachel shout, and run along the length of the bar, "Put her down. Hey, you guys. Bring her back." I'm about to follow when two of the sailors try to climb the bar.

"Don't even fucking try it." I warn them, but will they listen? I reach up both hands at the same time and push my palms into their faces. "Now stay off the fucking bar!" I point as I climb up and look across the room. The bodies are moving in time with the jukebox and it is difficult trying to pick out anyone. Then I notice that Lou and Lil have pulled the guys of Cammy.

"Hey, get your hands off me," I hear Rachel call from a few metres to my left, followed by the sound of her fist crunching on someone's nose. Way to go girl! I leap down into the crowd and push my way through, suddenly not giving a damn about hiding my slayer strength, just determined to stop this before things get too out of control and we have a riot on our hands. I pull the guy off Rachel who is holding her arms and push my way into the group, my elbow colliding with someone's face just as hers does the same. Suddenly our bodies are pushed together and I am looking into her eyes as we are surrounded. I throw my head back and she follows my lead, taking out the two behind us, and then a fist collides with her face and she hits the ground. I lift my leg up and side-kick the last guy in the group out of the way, and then pick her up. With the crowd calming down they make way for me and I carry her back to the bar, half surprised that she is letting me. I place her down and she slides over the rest of the way. I turn around to see Lou roughly ejecting the troublemakers, and smile in relief. I can get that kind of rush when I'm on patrol, I don't need it here as well.

"Can you manage?" I ask Lil, who's back behind the bar, more shocked by the fact that between us we managed to take out six guys.

"Sure. Go make sure she's all right." I climb over the bar and make my way into the back where Rachel is pushing a cold cloth onto her eye. "Here, let me." I walk up behind her and turn her around, taking the cloth. She leans back against the wash basin as I gently reach up and dab at her eye.

"Fucking idiots." I know she is trying not to wince, but she can't help it. That was some punch and she took it head on.

"You're going to have a real nice black eye tomorrow girlfriend."

"Tell me about it," she winced again. "Thanks for saving my ass."

"Hey, no problem," I reach down and rewet the cloth with cold water, partly to hide the fact that for some reason I appear to be starting to blush. "We're quite a team." I reach back up to her, and press the cloth back on, trying to work out just how bad the swelling will be in a couple of hours time. She is fighting against pulling away and she puts a hand on my hip to steady herself, and then I am leaning towards her and then our lips meet and I know that I have stopped thinking again. Still have that unsatisfied feeling deep inside me somewhere left over from last night. You know what I am like after a good fight, and especially one like that. And my guess is that she knows how I feel. Hence, the probation. I pull back and she still has her eyes closed. I glance in the mirror behind her head to see Lil standing there with a smile on her face. By the time I turn around and Rachel has opened her eyes, she is gone.

"Not bad for a new girl," she says, and I can't tell whether she knew that Lil had been there or not.

"Fuck you," I say through clenched teeth with just a slight hint of menace in my voice. I don't like being played by anyone, not even hard hearted pretty fucking bitches.

"You wish," she laughed, taking the cloth out of my hand and putting it back up to her eye.

"I don't have to wish," I laugh back, reaching up and tugging her bottom lip with my teeth. Then I just walk away back to the bar, and I think I can hear her chuckle over my shoulder.

"Hey Faith," Lil shouts over the crowd who are surging forward ready for last orders. "Nice work you did back there. I get the feeling you probably ended up saving more than Rachel's butt. I think they might have torn this place apart if you hadn't stopped it before things got a little out of hand."

"No problem, Lil."

"I guess you already got your thanks huh?" she winked as Rachel walked out of the back room. I winked back and flicked Rachel's ass as she walked passed me.

"How's the shiner girlfriend?" I could tell that part of her was pissed because I didn't have a scratch on me. I definitely came out of this battle a winner. But I ain't stupid, Rachel will always be out to win the war.

"Shut the fuck up or I'll give you one to match!" she said it with a smile to make it a joke in front of the punters, but the jukebox came back on before I had chance to ask her if she thought she could take me. I look at Lil who looks slightly concerned.

"You two ready to get back up there? Cammy?" I watch as the other two nod and I guess the only way to go on was to get back on. They get up there and I hesitate for a second before joining them. I always have one eye out for the danger. It goes with the destiny. I reckoned that this time we were in the clear. I laugh at myself each time I get up there. It gives me more of a buzz than I know it should.

Rachel and Cammy had a bottle in each hand and were throwing the sweet stuff all over the guys who were propping up the bar. And they were loving it. The tempo shifted up a gear and Rachel began stomping in the middle of the bar, all eyes on her, Cammy sitting in between her legs. The evening is coming to a close and I'll be glad to pocket my three hundred bucks, get the slaying done and crash for the night. Every one in the bar now thinks that I am a rock hard bitch, at least all the humans in there do. Anything else might think it was a little strange that a scrawny kid like me could take out that many guys without even trying. When I was doing time on the inside I worked the weights a little, not to make myself stronger or anything, just for something to do. I could concentrate on the ten count and for those beats while my arms were pumping up and down I had something to focus on that wasn't her. That's why I changed my workout routine so much. So that it didn't become routine. So that I would never shift gear to automatic and then she would be there at the front of my brain, with that look in her eyes telling me just how much Faith had managed to fuck up her life again. Stick to the numbers and the rhythm and for the hour long break each day I could be free from my demons.

See, even now, just as I am about to jump on a bar and dance, all my thoughts lead back to her. She is everywhere and there is no song in the world that doesn't remind me of her somehow.

*****

I'm hunched over against the cold as we walk along and I wonder why she has come back. When I saw her waiting outside for me for the second time I was confused. Confused in the way that B always manages to confuse me and it just makes the similarity even more hard to handle. I thought she had had her one night stand fun the other night, but I don't know the way to ask that kind of question without getting a slap in the face. Like B, she then reads my mind.

"I guess you're wondering why I am here again. Believe me, so am I." I have to stop myself from laughing as she turns up her nose at the street where my motel is. And once again she cuts me to the quick with her honesty.

"I'm just thinking that I must do something right," I say with a smile that lets her know that I am teasing her. We both know that the one thing she is not here for is the deep and meaningful, so why even bother pretending that she is? She takes the bait.

"Oh, you did *everything* right," she purrs, flirting with me. When she does that smile she looks so much like B I feel as if my heart is going to tear itself out of my chest.

"Is that a fact?" I smile again as I put the key into the door of my room. It swings back and I move against the door frame so she can walk past. "Ladies first." She walks by me and brushes herself up against me slightly, just enough to be flirty and let me know that she is here for a repeat performance of last time. Not that I hadn't got that already, but I guess she wanted to make sure that we hadn't somehow got our wires crossed. I shut the door behind me, and shrug off my coat. When I turn round she has made herself completely at home, her jacket is lying over my chair and she is lying over my bed. I take it by the gesture that there will be even less small talk than last time, and I wonder why I am doing this. Allowing myself to get into a situation where I will feel bad and hate myself in the morning, a situation that is so definitely the old Faith and not the new one. I can live with the pain inside because it is what I am used to. But, more than that, I want her. I don't know whether it is just because she reminds me of Buffy any more, or whether that uptown girl thing she's got going for her is actually getting to me, appealing to that dark side of my nature that could love her just for the little slut that she is and the piece of shit that she thinks I am.

I walk over to the bed and pull the straps off her shoulders before I even think about kissing her, watching her face as I do so, just like she is watching mine. When I have pulled it down to her waist I reach a hand up and cup her breast, and as she sighs when my finger brushes over her nipple, I bend my head down and kiss her. I feel her arms snake around my back as she pulls me in closer, and then I almost freeze as I feel her hand tugging at the hem of my tank top, breaking off the kiss so that she can pull it over my head. She pulls my head down to kiss me again, and I have to gasp when I feel her palm run upwards over my stomach, and I let her roll me over onto my back. As she kisses me and presses over me I can feel her nipples against mine, her hand sliding down over my side, along my scar and towards the leather of my pants. So she did notice the scar last time after all. I had thought she had been too wrapped up in the sex to care.

She sits up suddenly and then removes the rest of her clothes, ever so slowly, and my body feels cold where she had been pressed against it. As she puts on the display I realise that I want this so much more than I did before, and for completely different reasons. When she is completely naked she walks back over and slowly removes the rest of my clothes, taking her time, touching me as she does so, once even placing the lightest of kisses on the scar on my ribcage. I know she will ask me about it later, but right now all I want to think about is her and the way that she is making me feel. When all of our clothes are removed, she lays herself gently down beside me, taking in my body, letting her hands swirl patterns over it as she gets used to the idea. She leans in to kiss me, more passionately now as desire begins to flame her body like it has done mine, and she forgets the slowly slowly approach that she was aiming for earlier. I can't keep my hands next to my body and soon they are roaming all over hers, trying to take in every inch of her skin as if time is running out and I have to know all of her in the next hour. I feel my skin on fire everywhere she touches me and then it becomes too much and I am in her and she is in me, and then she is crying out my name as I take her over the edge. The feel of her gripping me tightly takes me with her, and I find myself whimpering her name into my mouth.

As we fall back against the sheets, this time I have the desire to take her into my arms and she lets me, resting her hands on my stomach and her head on my shoulder. This time I know I don't have to make any small talk, just listen to the sound of her breathing as it become less ragged against my neck and settles into a regular pattern. She reaches her head up to me and gently kisses her way along my jawline. "Tell me about it," she whispers and I know what she is talking about. She is intrigued by the mystery of someone like me, especially when they come with battle scars that show just how different the worlds that we come from are.

"I had a fight, with an old friend. She stabbed me." I try to make an ever so long story short. Miss out the bit that the chick who gutted me looked just like the chick who I am holding now and who is making me feel for the first time in years that there is something better out there for me.

"Why?" obviously the short answer isn't enough for her, even if the long answer is one that she will understand even less.

"I tried to kill her boyfriend, blow up the school." I tense as she pulls away from me and I guess I have blown it. I watch as she reaches into her purse and I wonder if she is so freaked that she is going to try to shoot me or something. Instead she pulls out this silver cross and the thought hits me that she might be trying to convert me instead. So my mind is playing over just which one of the two options is the worst, when she pulls it in two and snorts a line of coke. She really is the little rich girl complete with all the trimmings and the toys. She wipes the tip of her nose and settles back down on my shoulder.

"Sounds heavy." Is all she says and I know that she is going to leave it there. She doesn't really have any desire to know me any more than that, any more than she already does.

When I wake up it is light, the sunlight from outside mixing with the lamp that I never turned off last night. I feel a stirring in my arms and she is still there. We made it through the night without one of us getting the hell out of there as fast as we could. I think we will have surprised each other. She opens her eyes and squints against the light, then looks at me. "Good Morning lover," she purrs, reaching up to me and kissing me. I feel the need surging inside me again as she slips her tongue into my mouth, and by the time she leaves, the sun is high in the sky.

*****

Life is good. Yunno, I never thought that I would hear myself say that. Don't think that I have ever thought that even when I was going through my 'want, take, have' stage. No, even then life wasn't good, it was just simple and I was staying alive. That is a big difference from being good. Last night I dusted fourteen vamps, my new all-star city record, and when I went back, I got into bed and I slept. Straight through. For the first time in years I didn't dream about her, or if I did then I can't remember it. Which is much the same thing to me. Then I went out and got me some new clothes for work to flirt with all the girls in, and I feel like a million bucks. I even look myself in the eye as I put my make up on, the words buzzing round my head. Life is good. I kiss the mirror, leaving a nice scarlet lipstick mark, and silently curse myself for ever holding Joyce hostage. It casts a shadow over the moment, but only for a second. That was then and this is now.

Even as I am walking to the bar I can feel it in my walk. I know that if B saw this old Faith swagger she wouldn't think that I had changed at all. She would just think that I was hungry, horny and out on the prowl. I can feel the stillness of the hot city night on my stomach, and know that this top is something that Rachel would normally wear. I am starting the eleven o'clock shift and that is always the best at the bar. You come in fresh when everyone else is already pretty much juiced already and then you hit them like a breath of fresh air. As I walk to the front of the line and past Lou, he just nods and I duck under his arm, as he tries to keep the punters out. We are well over capacity and I hope that the cops don't swing round this way tonight. There's nothing like a visit from the boys in blue to kill an atmosphere. Especially in a place like this where we live pretty close to the line for most of the time.

I have to dodge and duck my way through the crowd to the bar, smelling the sweat and perfume mingle and I swear it's hotter than a heatwave in here tonight. Some pretty cute chicks in here as well. Cammy is putting her moves on the bar as I get there and she reaches down to me so that I can slide up through her legs and over to the other side. Thank god she is wearing her leopard-skin pants tonight or it might just have blown my mind. I wave hi to the others who have their hands full serving the punters and make my way into the back room. Sling coat onto the pile, check make-up, give the uplift bra a little help and I'm ready to roll. I notice the pile of empties is massive and that means that pay tonight will be better than most. I pinch Rachel's ass on the way passed her, and swing out of the way of the slap that she thinks I won't see coming.

"Have to try harder than that if you want to get me Rach," I laugh, walking over to Lil and giving her a high five as she turns round to grab another bottle of the back bar. "Whatcha ordering?" I ask the burly man waving a fist full of dollars at my cleavage.

"Two double JDs, a Jim Beam on the rocks, Two tequila's, and four of the specials."

"Coming right up." I grab a handful of shot glasses from the shelf under the bar, as Lil spins a couple of bottles my way. I lean backwards, reaching over my head for the bottle of tequila, and then pour em all out like I'm shooting shots from a gun. Told you I was on top form tonight. "Forty bucks clean." I take the money from his hand while he leers at me, and blow his burly ass a kiss for good measure. Just then someone puts 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia' on the jukebox and the only thing I can hear over it is Cammy whooping as she leaps onto the bar. She loves this one because it means she gets to shake her ass and jump around. Rachel's up there as a close second and then it's all footstomping action. Rachel spins round on her heels to face me, and I recognise that look by now.

"A bit slow up here tonight Faith. What is it new girl, can't you keep up?" she spins back round and I am more pissed by the fact that she keeps calling me new girl than anything else. Her way of keeping me in check. Gotta give it to the girl, she never quits. And she gets me every time - I'm a sucker for her wind-ups. I am up there in a heartbeat, my feet keeping up with hers, hands on my hips as the legs do all the work. I see Rachel glance over her shoulder, mouth shit and grab onto the ceiling bars, hoisting her ass up out of the way just in time. For once I am the one who doesn't see it coming and then I feel the sting of ice cold liquid on my back. Lil has out the water jet and is laughing like a fucking maniac as she soaks me and Cammy and just about everyone for the first four rows.

Her laughing is infectious and I can't help but join in, pushing my hair back of my face where the wet strands are sticking to it. Even Rachel drops back down onto the bar so that Lil can make her wet easier. I notice that Cammy never skips a beat, just uses her hands to push her wet clothes onto her skin, so that they stick and give the customers just what they want to see. And not just the customers, I look at Rachel and see that she is thinking pretty much the same thing that I am. I watch as she runs to the pole at the end of the bar, spins round it half a turn to gain momentum, two quick skips and then she drops onto her hip and slides past me and through Cammy's legs. She raises her eyebrows to me and I catch her meaning. I glance down to Lil and I can see that she has spotted it too. I move towards Cammy, keeping in time with the music, swinging my hips so that everyone can see just what kind of things I have in mind. By the time I get close to her, Rachel has her hands on her hips, and their hips are grinding together in time with the music. Cammy runs her hands through her hair as if Rachel is really making her hot, and in the back of my mind I wonder just how much of this is actually done purely for the customers each night. Cammy extends her arm and crooks her finger at me, and I move in the rest of the way, sliding my thigh in between her legs, and I can feel the outside of my knee rubbing up against the inside of Rachel's leg. I can hear that most of the wolf-whistling is coming from behind the bar rather than from in front of it, and then I feel Cammy's hands on my ass, and the two of them lean forwards, our hips still grinding with the jukebox, forcing me to lean backwards. By the four count I am bent over quite far and start to make my way back up and forwards, leaning into the others so that it is their turn to lean. I gasp as I feel Lil turn on the water jet again and feel Cammy speeding up her hips. The tune ends with a crack, and the cheer that goes round the bar can probably be heard four blocks away. I notice that we don't pull away that quickly, and then Cammy takes my hands and slides down through my legs and hops of the bar. Leaving me and Rachel face to face. She reaches out and takes my hand, shaking it with a hard glint in her eye.

"You did good kid," she says with half a smile. Then she jumps off the bar, grabbing two bottles the moment that her feet hit the floor and by the time I join her, she already has the first order done. I scoot along to the other end of the row where there is quite a crowd building up, spinning Cammy round on the way.

Tonight is a good night. Nobody in here wants any trouble, they just want good whisky and to see some hot girls dancing on the bar. Which is pretty much a good thing because it's becoming hard to keep Cammy off it tonight. She's so hot, we don't need whisky, Rachel and matches to get the flames going. Man, even Lil got up there tonight. And that is pretty fucking unusual from what I can gather. I don't know why though, after all she is the original coyote and one mean dancer. Seeing her up there, her and Cammy putting the moves on each other had more than me just drooling. I was tempted to get out the water jet myself to cool the two of them off. She's still up there when Rachel suddenly looks at her watch and says 'fuck' before giving the bell on the back bar a good tug and calling time. I put the last of the money in the register and see that we can barely fit another dollar in. I'm looking forward to Rachel counting up tonight. I reach up and put my hands on Lil's waist. She puts her hands on my shoulders and I take her weight as she jumps off the bar. I use my strength to make sure that her descent is slow, her body pushed up against mine as she slides along it to the floor. When her feet are on solid ground, she still doesn't let go of my shoulders but licks her lips absentmindedly. I wonder if rule number three is not fucking the boss, but I don't think so. Not if I know Lil, and I can tell that look in another woman's eyes for forty paces. Not that I would, well, probably not, but I am starting to get the hang of the whole having fun thing again. I think I am finally starting to accept myself for who I am, or whatever shit it was that the prison psychologist spouted at me. Lil just laughs at me and she knows that I am playing her. She pushes me away and begins to clear the empties while Rach pops open the till. We all perk up at the sound of the ping.

Rachel is handing round the cash when there is a hammering on the door. "Okay, all right, I'm coming," yells Lil, more than a little pissed off that someone is trying to get in at this time of night. Especially when he comes in and throws up all over the floor.

"Call 911," he spluttered "Girl outside. Dead." I felt my gut go tight as I pushed passed him and out into the street to where a group was already gathering around. The moment I saw the brown hair on the pavement I knew. I knew it was her. She had come back to see me, to wait for me again, in this part of town on her own at night. I dropped to my knees by her head, dead eyes looking past me into the dark sky, the cross she had taken her line from dangling down from her fingers. The moment that I saw it there I knew, but I had to be sure. Pretending to check for a pulse, I pulled her head to the side and looked at the blood drying on her neck. One of those bastards had got to her. They had got to her and I hadn't been able to save her.

At some point I must have started crying, because I saw a tear drop onto her cold cheek and slide its way down to her lips. I could hear my voice, saying "no" over and over again, but couldn't feel the words from my mouth. I felt Lil's hand on my shoulder and I guess she remembered who it was because she pulled me close. She tried to pull me away but as I saw my tear slide over her lips, a distant part of my brain realised that her lips were going blue, except for patches that were darker. And that was when I fell backwards, knocking over Lil and throwing up all over the curb. The bastard had turned her. She was going to rise. Like my mind always does at any time in my life, my thoughts go back to her. I suddenly understand the whole thing now when she had to kill Angel, and it crosses my mind that the whole 'deal and move on' attitude that I threw at her made no sense at all.

I find myself walking and that night I kill all the vampires in a fucking ten mile radius. Cold, clean, efficient, my stake is heading for the next before the last's dust has even settled. Thinking that if I managed to get them all then I would get the bastard who had done this to her. And I was blaming myself, for not protecting her. I was the slayer for fucks' sake. It was my job to protect her. My duty, my calling, and I had let her down in the worst possible way. And like everything else, last night I had actually started to care about her. I could hear that devil on my shoulder whispering that it was me, that everything I cared about just winded up dead. And a lot of the time I might have given in and listened to that voice, taken that trip over to the other side. But tonight all I had was the revenge that was burning inside me, and it was just lucky for everyone else that I was fighting the good fight.

I waited at the cemetery from dusk for her to rise, feeling the tears drift down my cheeks in what seemed to be an endless stream, and when I saw those perfectly manicured nails torn and chipped from digging through the hard earth, I knew that it was time. Stood up and waited for the rest of her to follow. I knew that I could not look at her, that if I looked at her face it would be like driving the stake into everything that I have ever known. So instead I focus on her breast, and while she looks at the stake and I know she is shocked that the slayer turned out to be me, I plunge it deep into her.

For the first time in my life I don't pull it out sharp straight away. I just let it slip from my grasp as I hear her scream and then watch as it falls to the floor with the dust around my feet. I don't try to pick it up. I just turn and walk on my heel, feeling dead inside again.

*****

I can feel it all slipping away from me. Each night at the bar I dance wilder than the rest, drink more than the rest, and then I go out and slay until my arms are numb with the effort. That has become my routine. Then I go back and drink some more, cry a little at the hopelessness of it all, the fact that the fight will never completely be over, and then I pass out.

It is Lil who spots her first, Lil who looks like she has seen a ghost, and then the memory flickers across her face. Some one I once knew has just walked into the bar. Blonde hair not brown, eyebrows raised slightly as she looks at the people yelling around her, eyes scanning the room for me. I had known that she would come, I just didn't know when or how I would feel when she did. She walks up to the bar.

"I'll have a water." Cammy goes to grab the loudspeaker, but Lil quickly puts a hand on her arm and shakes her head slightly. I slide a water across the bar.

"How did you find me?"

"The postcard that you sent to Angel. I had the city, I just had to find you in it. The way you have been going, I just followed the trail of dust." She smiles in the way she used to when I first knew her.

"Why did you find me?" I thought that I knew but I wanted to be certain.

"You know why. I had the dream, just like you did. You needed my help." For some reason I feel like she is patronising me, like I haven't done the job well enough on my own. I know that it is my own guilt that thinks that, but as usual I want to blame it all on her. But we have walked some long roads between us and at least one of us has learnt the lessons. She places a hand on my arm, and it is surprisingly soothing. "Not the slaying," she says the last bit in whisper. "*You* need my help. And as soon as I realised I came. So are you going to tell me what's wrong?"

"This isn't the time or the place B," I say in a whisper when I notice that Lil is looking at me. No dating the customers. I can see it in her eyes, and after my last bit of luck, doing a repeat performance with her fucking double is definitely something that is off Lil's agenda. "I'm staying on West 34th street. Number 101. Be there at three when I get back and we can talk then. Okay?" I can see by the look on her face that she thinks I am blowing her off, so I try to soften it with a smile. It is the best I can do right now. She nods, and I can't tell what she is thinking. Then she turns around and pushes her way back out of the bar. I can see all three of them turn and look at me, all with the same expression. The one that says: what the fuck is going on?

As she disappears out of sight I feel hollow inside again. She walked through the door and she turned my world upside down again. After she had appeared in my dream and saved me from being staked by some vamps, I knew when I woke up it was a slayer prophesy dream. I was going to go off the rails for good this time unless she saved me. When I saw the look in her eyes I think she knew this too. That she did not have to save my ass from a couple of wannabe demons. No, she had to try and save me from myself. Again. I wondered just at what point this was all going to stop, and she would give up on me completely. I thought that she had the last time. There is never a day that goes by when I don't think of her. She is always with me. Just like I am now beginning to see that I am always with her. Part of the connection we have no choice about.

"I take it that is the old flame that you told me about?" I hadn't heard Lil stand next to me, and she tries to make it sound casual as she leans over and pushes four double JD's across the bar.

"Yeah, she's the one." There is no point trying to hide it any more.

"She's the reason that you're here, right? That's sixteen bucks honey." She turns around and flings the cash in the register. "She's the one that you've been running away from all this time."

"Don't be fooled by that pretty little face, Lil. If she was after your butt like she's been after mine, then you'd be running as well."

"Yeah? What's her name?" Oh fuck. I pause and I know I can say it, I can hear it echo around inside my own head. It's just getting it out.

"Buffy." I try not to choke on it, and just let it slide its way over my tongue, but I can feel the tears beginning to sting my eyes.

"Nice name." Lil must be able to tell that she is hurting me because she decides to drop it once again. I know she is determined to get the full story, but she's happy to do it in bits and pieces. Which is good because I don't think that I could do the long haul.

*****

She's waiting outside the building when I get there, twenty minutes late. I wonder if she was beginning to think that I wasn't going to show. All the way back I've been running through all the things that we might say to each other, and each time my mind leads me to somewhere bad. I don't want it to be that way ever again, but there is a sinking feeling in my gut that just won't go away. She always has had that effect on me, I don't know why I expected that this time I would feel any different. But then there is a little voice in my head that says that things are different now. I understand this time. I've been through the tunnel and came out on the other side. Like she had to do. She follows me up the stairs and we don't say anything. Even when I fumble with my key so much trying to get it into the lock that I drop it and then I feel like a fucking stupid kid again. I just hope that she can't see that my hands are shaking. I keep my back to her even though there is part of me that is tensed for the feel of the knife slipping through my ribs and into my heart. It hasn't happened by the time that I finally get the fucking door open, and I breathe a sigh of relief, and point for her to come in.

I watch her as she looks around the place, still not used to the poor side of town, but I can smile knowing that I have had classier ladies than Buffy Summers in that bed now. Someone who saw through the decor and that was enough. She smiles at me and I know she is not going to comment on the room. We have opened the conversation like that too many times now. It's becoming more cliched than the weather. She decides to try another opener.

"So, have you worked at the bar long?"

"Coupla weeks. The money's good."

"Looks like your sort of place." She says it with a smile, and I can't tell whether she's making a dig or not. I once thought that I knew her, that I could read her, but I never knew her at all. How can you ever understand someone like B?

"Like I say, it pays well, and the girls are really nice."

"Glad to hear it. Still slaying as much?"

"There are plenty around here to keep me busy." I walk over to night-stand and pour myself a double shot of the cheap bourbon, to steady my nerves. I knock it back in one go, wincing slightly. "Want some?" I ask over my shoulder.

"Yes, please." Now that surprised me. I had already started screwing the top back on I had been so confident that the answer would be no. I undo it the rest of the way again, and decide that if she is having one then I will too. I place the bottle down and pick up her glass, trying to will my hand to stop shaking as I turn around and give it to her. She smiles at me as she takes it out of my hand and I feel myself going weak at the knees. Our fingers brush slightly and she still has the same effect on me, her body still electrifies mine. "Thank you."

"No problem," I walk back over to the chest and lean against it, sipping more slowly at my drink this time. I nearly choke when I see her slug hers back in one easy movement. She smiles at my surprise.

"Things change Faith. People change. I know that now. I've changed. So let's cut the pleasantries and get right to it. How can I help you and will you even let me this time?" It's not exactly the touching reunion that I was hoping for, but its still not a knife in the gut. B has that hard streak in her, just like me. When you're a slayer it's the thing that will keep you alive when the chips are down.

"I'll let you help me this time B. You know that already or you wouldn't have come." When she smiles at me I know that I have hit the nail on the head this time.

So I sit down on the bed and tell her the whole fucking sorry story, even the fact that Kathryn was her double and that was the reason I had invited her back that first time, not even caring about the consequences as I said it, just needing to offload to someone who understood. At some point I started crying because she came and sat behind me on the bed and handed me a tissue from her purse. I blew my nose a little too loudly, and then she just sat there rubbing the small of my back as I carried on with the story. When I had finished, she walked back over to the chest and poured us both what must have been a quad, draining the last of the bourbon from the bottle, and then brought them over, sitting down next to me. All of this in silence and for once I was glad about it. I felt like my brain was falling out as I went through the whole thing, the way I was feeling about being a fuck-up. And then she said it. "Faith. It's not your fault. You did the right thing. You did the only thing." That just made the tears fall again and she reached around me with her free arm and pulled me in close. I had fantasised about this moment every day for all that time since I handed myself over to the cops and yet I never imagined it would feel like this. It wasn't because of her it was because of me. I had allowed myself to be happy again and things had got messed up straight away. I didn't want the same to happen to B. I don't change. I've been having a good run of bad luck all my life. She has a pretty screwy deal being the slayer anyway, without me and my fucking curse making things any worse. Because I love her. I always have and I always will. I know that she will never feel that way about me, but if I can get her to leave here with us being friends before anything else decides to go wrong, then I'll be happy. The very fact that she is sitting on my bed holding me now means that she has forgiven me more than I had ever dared hope that she would.

"How long are you staying in New York?" I sniff.

"For a while." She drains the glass and doesn't look me in the eyes. "Giles says that there is *another* big evil coming in two full moons time. He's doing the research, so it was no problem me coming out here to you."

"Never stops for you, does it B?" she looks at me when I say 'B' and could almost swear there was a look in her eyes that says she misses it. My head is pumping from the crying and a nightful of whisky before I even got back here. I close my eyes and hear the glass being put down on the floor, and then her hands are on my shoulders, rolling them backwards and forwards, easing out the knots that have been building up from the night we found Kathryn.

She has pretty deft fingers and after about half an hour I can feel the tension start to slip away. I can feel her breath on my neck, and it warms me, having her this close. For the first time I feel safe. When she is sure that all the tension has been massaged away, she reaches around my waist and pulls me into her, until I am lying between her legs, my back against her chest, the back of my head resting on her shoulder. Her arms stay around my waist and I feel her plant a kiss on the top of my head. The kind of kiss that she usually saves for people like Red. She still doesn't say anything and I know that if I open my mouth I will ruin the moment. So I just close my eyes and allow myself to drift off to sleep. And I realise that I was right all along. It does feel like home.

...continued in Killers, Angels, Refugees...

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