A Question of Integrity
by Anne
Rating: R

Disclaimer: Joss, WB etc etc own them, not me.
Spoilers: General BtVS and AtS.
Author's Notes: I just wrote this one, no beta, probably not in character, but what the hell!
Feedback: Yeah, even if it is to tell me that you hate me for this one!

I can feel it. It starts like a low grumbling in my guts, yunno, and then my head starts pounding. It's like some cartoon throb, and I swear that my head is pulsing so you could see it. You would need a fucking crowbar to open my mouth, I'm all wound up that tight. I look down and see that my hands are balled up into fists, ready to strike at a split second's notice. I look up through my lashes, the way I do when I'm flirting, but I know the rest of my face is not matching my eyes. There is only one reason why I am here, and it ain't sex. She looks at me with that knowing but oh-so-cute smirk, and all I want to do is wipe it off her face once and for all. She is playing me and I know it. Somehow she has been playing me since I walked out of the door. Guess she could never stand to be wrong. And me being right, I guess that would kill her even more.

I knew she was doing it as soon as she told me to get into the car and that she was taking me to Sunnydale. My first few hours of freedom weren't going to be spent in a bar in downtown L.A. drinking my first ice-cold beer in what seems like forever, it's going to be staring at the other cars on the freeway with Ice Queen Buffy sitting next to me. I thought that her driving might have improved while I was away, but I guess that's just another thing that I was wrong about. We don't even make small talk, but when I glance across at her, I can see a glint in her eyes. That same kind of glint that she had just before she tried to make me into Faith Fillet Supreme, the look that was staring into the mirror. Desperation, pure and simple and so intense. All that anger that was building up inside, like some great big wound that never heals. I think it is part of being a Slayer, regardless of whether or not you are squeaky-clean or still getting your footing on the road to redemption. She always hated it, always wanted to take it away from me, and boy was she pissed all those times when I just wouldn't let her. Each time I've taken it away from her, and it is all about survival. She ever takes that away from me and I know that I am done for. It doesn't matter what I have done or what I am going to do. All of this, my whole damn life since I met her, it has been about the two of us.

The way I figure it is this. Into every generation a Slayer is born. That is the way that it goes and the way that's always been. So me - I'm an almighty fuck up in the Slayer game. Well, there was that chick that was before me, but she didn't last long. And there has to be some reason for all of this. That has to be the reason why there were no "Chosen Two" prophecies. It's not meant to be this way. She knows it as well as I do, though being Buffy, I 'spect that she has never admitted it to herself. At least I don't think that she has. But maybe now is the time, and that is why she is sitting here, and not talking to me, oozing all anger and sex. In that controlled Buffy way of course, so you know that it is there but you get the feeling that you are never going to be able to touch it. Me, well I had thought that one day I might. Then she fucks me over with Angel, fucks me over with the slaying, with everything. All reminding me that I am not her, could never be like her, and more than anything, there is no way that I could touch her. I can feel it now though, all out in the open, and I can feel it starting to get to me. Like I am feeling it, feeding off it, in some fucked up mystic Slayer way, yunno? I also noticed about five miles back that there was no way we were heading towards Sunnydale, that we were heading out into the deserts. No point saying anything to her, we have to just play this one out. I haven't seen her in such a long time, and there is nothing that I want to say to her. She came to L.A. to take me the last time, and I let her believe that she could. Of course, there was no way that Angel was going to let her and I knew that. But deep down I guess there was something in me that wanted her to land that punch on my lips so I could feel the blood trickle down onto my tongue to remind me that all of this was real. Everything between us, everything that made me a Slayer, something much more than human. I don't give a shit about right and wrong, it's all about me and what I do best. What she could do best if she would ever let herself. But that wouldn't be her, even if she is sitting next to me right now doing a damn good impression of it.

I know that if I had stayed around after the council guys had been ass-kicked out of town, then it would have come to this, like it is now. And I didn't want it then. I know I wasn't ready for it then. I needed some time to think about what I was doing. Now, I've never been one for planning, that's what Watchers are for, but a spell behind bars gave me plenty of time to figure it all out. Sure, I was pretty cut up about all the people I killed and beat the shit out of, but that's not the be all and end all. Don't get me wrong, it's not something that I want to do now. I saw enough in that place to make me realise that this world is fucked up enough without me adding to it. So all I needed was to regain that focus, that shit that I had been taking out on everyone else. A year to do nothing but think about her. And us, and what it was like to be a Slayer. Sometimes, when the lights went out and I was awake thinking about everything has happened to me since that watcher stepped out in front of me, I could almost believe that she was thinking about it as well. What it meant to us, and what it was that made us so different. How it made us better than everyone else. I guess she would never look at it that way, but I could. There was no one who could challenge me, except her. And the challenge was about to begin. As she swung the car off the road, I wondered why she seemed to know where she was going, and I realised that she had been here before. I didn't care why, it has nothing to do with me. Only when we get there, that is when I will start to care.

After a while she pulls to a stop in the middle of nowhere. The sort of place where no-one can hear you scream. And that's when the pulsing in my veins starts to kick in. She cuts the engine and unsnaps her belt. "Out of the car." It is an order, and one that tells me that this is not the time for conversation. She reaches over her shoulder for her back, leaning so close to me I can smell her hair. She still uses the same shampoo, and I can see the vein on her neck taut with the same tension. I recognise the scrape of metal against metal, and I know that there are weapons in that bag. My heart rate slips up a notch as she brings her arm back and slides the bag onto her lap. She reaches for the handle on the door, and I do the same.

Stepping out into the heat I feel it hit me after the soft air conditioning of the car. I feel the sweat prick out all over my body in an instant. As she slams her door shut she looks as cool as ever. That pouty mouth is set firm and she has that Buffy look of determination in her eyes. She starts walking and I take that as my sign to follow her, even if that means we are travelling deeper into the desert. I get a brief image of my bones being bleached by the sun in months to come, and I don't like it one little bit. I can feel the adrenaline hitting my muscles, ready to make my legs pound towards her. Or away from her, whichever instinct will be the strongest in the end. About a mile away from the car, she stops and looks around. We are on high ground and can see for miles in all directions. There is nothing. And sometimes nothing can be beautiful.

She drops the bag into the dust and turns to face me.

"Why are you here Faith?"

"Coz, you told me get in the car the moment I walked out of the prison gates, that's why." I want to add 'Dur!' to the end of that but I know it would be the wrong thing to say. There is no humour in her eyes.

"Wrong answer Faith. Try again."

"Let's try it this way. Why are you here B?"

"This isn't about me."

"Oh, I think it is. This is about me and you." At some point we have started circling each other, and her fists are clenched at her sides just like mine. "You brought me here to finish it haven't you B?" The look in her eyes tells me that I have hit the nail on the head. Unfinished business has always been the way with us. We never finish anything, our fights, our laughter. Something always comes up. But now she is ready to take it all in one big fight. Like she had once thought she was doing. But she bottled out at the last minute. She could have killed me in the hospital, but she never did. Guess she thought that I would be asleep long enough for her to keep thinking about it a bit longer. So this time she brought me out where there was no truck for me to fall into, and no police bars for me to hide behind with that smug look on my face because I have stolen the victory away from her again. "I think I should warn you B. I'm not going without a fight. Still think that you can take me?"

"I could have taken you all along."

"Erm, I think the fact I am breathing means that you couldn't. Never could stand the sight of blood could you B?" I am taunting her again now, my hands in front of me not even looking defensive. Everyone has always been afraid that she could kick their ass. Not me. Not now and not ever. "Now, demon slime and vampire dust, you can handle that. You hated yourself the moment that you stuck the knife into my gut. I even hit you and you didn't fight back." My voice had got louder somewhere in the middle of my little speech and she was just staring at me. "But I saw it in you girlfriend. You loved it when you did it, and then that little good girl routine kicked in. Why? Because killing is wrong." I mocked her, threw her own voice back at her. I saw her suck in breath, trying to stay in control. And everyone always said that I was the unstable one.

"It's not like that," she said through clenched teeth. "I knew that you hadn't changed Faith. I just needed to bring you out to where it could be just the two of us to prove it."

"Didn't want anyone to see your dark side when we threw down, huh B?"

"Didn't want anyone to see what I am going to do to you. You have got to be punished."

"Cut the crap Buffy. This isn't about who I've killed. This isn't about some kind of justice. This is about you and me. You don't trust me, you can't understand me, that's why you can't even understand yourself." The time for talking was over. I could feel it like a cold wind that suddenly blew in between us. Before she could say anything else, I covered the ground between us, knowing that if nothing else I could at least have the victory of the first blow. I felt her face crunch satisfyingly under my knuckles before she had the chance to roll back. I was there, I was back. It hit me like a fire, and all I could see was the red, all I could feel was the instinct taking over my body, telling me what to do and where to hit, how to block. She fell away from me, seemingly off balance but brought her leg up and kicked me in the side, bruising over scar. Then we were facing each other again, both with arms raised, ready to fight and ready to defend. I could see the sweat breaking out on her upper lip and I knew that the cool front that she had been showing was gone. I looked for a weakness, somewhere to hit again, but she got there first.

And then it was a blur. I know that I got her a few times and I know that she got me. I had bruises on my forearms from blocking her kicks and punches, and from where she had blocked mine. At one point she knocked me onto my back and as I rolled away from her fist thundering towards my face, I noticed that the sun was starting to set down in the valley. Then I was up again, sweeping her and moving from the counter attack.

My movements were getting slower, I could feel my punches missing the mark more and more. She was the same. Then she hit me hard in the temple and I was down. I had lost. The nothing that stretched in front of me meant that I couldn't find anything to focus on; the world was swimming as I heard her walk away from me. This wasn't how it was meant to end. This was not the fight to end all fights like we had promised each other. Then I heard the zipper sliding, and I knew that she was going into her bag. By the last ray of the sun I saw it glint against finely polished metal, and a knife that was beautifully familiar. I felt pity, she had resorted to the same old same old, lack of originality would never beat me, just bore me. I lay back on my elbows, vaguely wondering where she was going to stick it into me this time, as she marched over, a strange mix of fight and smug. I had seen it before. I had seen it in me. I watched as weighted it in her hand, felt how good it was to hold the power of life and death as your opponent lay helpless on the floor. Happy that it had finally come to this and sad that it had to end this way. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on the soft winds that seemed to cool my bruises. Feeling it drift over my face as I kept my eyes closed, waiting, waiting. She was taking a long time, so certain and determined to make the torment last as long as possible. And then I felt it coming. I snapped my hands closed over hers and pulled her towards me, throwing her off balance as I twisted my palms round, taking advantage of her surprise. I felt the kickback as knife pierced soft flesh, half remembering the easy it was to use this, listening to her sudden intake of breath as the pain hit her. She fell on top of me, but I pushed her off, jerking the knife upwards as she rolled away. It sliced through flesh, muscles and god knows what else. Then she was lying there gasping for breath. "Sorry it has to be this way B." I wouldn't be me if I didn't get the last word and I pushed my lips hard onto hers, one final kiss, coz we always kiss each other when we try to kill each other, as my hand fished about in her pocket for the keys to the car.

The End