Blindspot
by SwaySlayer
Rating: NC-17

Disclaimer: I own nothing but a complete misconception of myself and my abilities. Buffy, Faith, Angel et al belong to Joss Whedon who, while being a genius, has yet to realize that I am the missing element in his scripts.
Author’s Notes: This fic has been in the works for aaaaages, but egged on by sheer determination and loads of sugar and caffeine, it is officially complete. Enjoy.
Feedback: My name is Sway, and I’m a feedback whore. Please feel free to encourage my habit.

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PART 1

Blood. There was something almost exotic about a substance that sustained a human being while being equally responsible for its downfall. In some cases that is. Most people die of heart attacks, old age and cancer, while others are hit by cars, take their own lives or overdose on one final hit. In Los Angeles, things are different. In addition to these causes of death, there is one that seems to be a common occurrence, leading authorities to believe that a gang is carrying out ritual murders. While the two puncture wounds in the neck of all the victims points to needle wounds or two points of entry from a long, thin object, these are not murders. A more suitable definition would be that of dining out. So the dead are buried and mourned while their families and friends cry out in pain and look to the heavens for an explanation. They find none. Alternatively, they find solace in being near the presence of their former loved one, and if circumstances leading to the death involved a certain transaction, they bear witness to the second murder of their beloved. They wail as the opportunity of reconciliation is turned to dust, cowering in the darkness of the cemetery, afraid to look at the vicious killer who has just inflicted the death wound. Had they the courage to lift their eyes, they would find what they were looking for, albeit rather different from their original perception.

Everything about her is smoke. From the colour of her eyes to the tight leather pants that encase her lean, muscular form. She stands. Her stance is unflappable, poised, stake in hand and ready to fight whatever forms slink out of the dark. Her breath is ragged and the cold night air turns it to steam. It settles around her, creating a circle of invincibility that even the most dangerous of humans would not dare to infiltrate. She looks to where the vampire used to be and watches as rain begins to mingle with the dust, making an ugly grey paste that pools at her feet. She can sense the fear in the air and she shoots a look to where the unfortunate witnesses are, crouching behind a gravestone. She feels a light tingling sensation and cannot decide whether it is the rain on her body or the satisfaction of a kill manifesting itself as a stimulant. She shakes the droplets from her hair and walks away, completely impassive to the anxious faces that are regarding her with much trepidation. They watch as her hips adopt what can only be described as a jaunty sway and she disappears into the mist that commonly accompanies these light night showers. There is no rational reason for what just happened, but one fact remains: her name is Faith and she is the Slayer.

This scenario plays itself over and over in her head. When it’s not haunting her during the day, the images float into her sub-conscious as she dreams at night, and she wakes up covered in an anxious sweat. It is not the situation that scares her, but the fact that she is unable to perform the duty that she dreams about, due to her current state of incarceration. Faith fucked up. She knows that. She lives it. She sees it when she wakes up and she can smell it just before she goes to sleep; that distinctive odour of failure that encompasses her immediate environment. Truthfully, Faith was never one to grovel before the “great destiny” that had been laid out for her. In fact, the only enjoyment she gained from slaying was the opportunity to kill those who had hurt her in the past. They were monsters, so she killed monsters. Demons of the night whose insatiable hunger lead them right to her. She smiled when she killed the first one.

Faith didn’t smile anymore. She didn’t do anything at all. She went through the motions of living like a somnambulist, trying to carve out an existence that isolated her from the outside world. One concept remained a constant. She was not doing this for herself, but for the people who she had hurt or had the potential to hurt. She had successfully removed herself from society, but in doing so, had taken with her, any ideas of salvation. She sleeps alone in her cell. The first roommate she had lasted one night. She spent the second night in solitary while her cellmate spent it in the infirmary. After that, she was kept alone. She stares at the ceiling, a dead look in her eyes that says “I’ve seen it all and I wish I hadn’t”, but deep inside the hollow interior she maintains, lies a moment of happiness. It was fleeting, therefore not unlike the other seldom occurrences of such an emotion, but thinking about it restores some measure of her soul. She tries not to think about it too often, fearful of wearing it out and consequently leaving her with nothing. So she closes her eyes, oblivious to the wailing sounds emanating from the cell next to her, and begins to think of nothing. Absolutely nothing. Alas, on that particular night, it was not to be, and it was not the same dream that came to her.

The images that danced in front of her eyes were so real that she could almost taste them, burning themselves into her brain and making her cry out in her uneasy slumber. Strands of dark, wavy hair clung to her face as she thrashed on her bunk, trying to claw her way out of a situation that was only apparent to her. She felt a thousand emotions wash over her and she gasped for breath, overwhelmed by sensations of pain, pleasure, fear and anger. She began to succumb to the darkness, and it was almost comforting. She felt herself floating up to the ceiling, out of the physical confines of the facility and away from all emotional constraints. It was then that she felt another presence. Someone close to her. She could feel the warmth of their breath on her neck, and it sent shivers through her body. She could not determine whether she felt afraid or secure and it made her reach out her hand to the other figure. Dreams and reality seemed to converge into one as she realised her hand was clasped in another. Suddenly, a white light projected from somewhere within her subconscious and she awoke, scrambling for something tangible to hold onto. It was the one thing she had searched for all her life, and the one thing that still eluded her.

*****

Buffy opened her eyes and drew breath as if she had never done so before. Her heartbeat sounded like the rhythm of a thousand war-drums and her pillow was an indication of a hot night’s troubled sleep. She blinked a few times before realising where she was. She was in her room, in her dorm, on campus and she took a moment to fully register these facts. This did not soothe her feeling of uneasiness. She felt like she had been lifted out of herself, but on being dropped down, had forgotten her place in the world. Simply put, she was perplexed. She hated it when she didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Barring the recuperative powers of being a Slayer, she was not considered a “morning person” and loathed the very act of getting up. On her bad days she had to be coaxed out of bed with a promise of food, coffee or an impending apocalypse. The latter, not surprisingly, usually lauded the quickest activity. The person who habitually did the coaxing was no where to be found, as Buffy gathered from Willow’s unmade empty bed. Groaning at the thought of having to motivate herself to move, Buffy rolled over and glanced at the clock that told her it was 11:00am. She hated that clock. It was like a miniature devil that taunted her with its glowing eyes, and she had an overwhelming urge to smash the smug expression off its face. Catching herself just before she pulverised the appliance, Buffy forced herself out of bed and trudged down the hall to perform her cleansing ritual. Now way back when – in the days of Buffy “Cheerleader” Summers – her ritual usually consisted of two hours in the bathroom wherein every part of her body was scrubbed, washed and exfoliated before she would even think of stepping foot out of her house. Present circumstances now barely made room for brushing her teeth, showering and washing her hair, each that she performed with amazing speed. The life of a Slayer was not conducive to primping.

Buffy had come to accept these restraints on her life, neither cursing them nor appreciating their presence, but merely acknowledging their existence. She was good at that - acknowledging things – but on occasion, this was not enough. In all the death, carnage and life-threatening situations, Buffy often overlooked the simple human desire to interact with others. The life of a Slayer was destined to be one of solitude, and were it not for the Scoobies, Buffy was confident that she would have found herself alone in her quest. Although at this point, she was alone. Her roommate was nowhere to be found, and she had a sneaky suspicion that the rest of the gang were AWOL with her. Running a hand through her damp hair, she smiled at herself in the mirror as the realisation dawned. Her birthday was in a few days and she would bet a litre of cookie dough that they were out shopping for her. It’s difficult enough to shop for a teenage girl, so the addition of one who has super strength and a predetermined existence doesn’t make it any easier.

She walked back to her room feeling decidedly fresher and thought about her plans for the day. Considering it was a Saturday, Buffy did not have to deal with the torture of attending classes, and seeing that is was still morning, the plague she had been called to fight was nowhere near venturing out. Throwing on her “barely-there” shorts and a white T-shirt that tied in the front, she applied some light make-up and grabbed some cash from her desk drawer. She was halfway out the door when something settled on her. It was not so much a presence, but more of an emotion; an air of some lost feeling that had chosen this particular moment to appear. Shaking her head to rid herself of the presence, Buffy closed the door to her room, walked down the hall and out of the building.

*****

Detective Kate Lockley sat huddled over her desk, a stack of papers piled high in front of her weary blue eyes. It was 10:30 PM and her eyes were beginning to close on their own accord, yet something always pushed her to continue. She liked to think it was her tenacity, a refusal to give up on the weak, but most of the officers in her precinct just thought she was obsessed. The line is a fine one, but judging from the case she was looking at now, she wasn’t the only one who crossed it occasionally. The report concerned a multiple homicide, although looking at the numbers, calling it a massacre would have been more apt. A group of lawyers from Wolfram and Hart had been killed in a most grisly fashion. This did not interest her. What did, was a witness saying that he had seen a figure in a long, black trenchcoat leaving the premises before the screams began.

He had this uncanny ability to appear whenever she thought about him, and true to her instincts, he did. Kate watched him as he approached her desk. He never walked. He glided, in fact, it was suffice to say that he stalked.

He sat down on the edge of her desk and waited for her to speak. She noticed that he always did that, waiting for her to ask him questions so that he didn’t reveal any unnecessary details. She was in no mood to play games.

“Looks like your friends had themselves quite a time. Bad lawyer jokes aside, you let them die.” Angel shifted off the desk and looked away.

“I’m tired of people messing with my head Kate. I have 250 years of evil to atone for, and having some law firm trying to lead me astray doesn’t help my mood.”

“So you let innocent people die because you’re not in the mood to help them?”

“No. I let kind take care of kind.”

“So you condone this type of behaviour.”

“If I had the ability to take care of it, I would Kate, but I’m the first to admit that over the years there has been only one thing that has been my weakness.”

“And that is?”

“Darla. I can’t kill her Kate. I’m not ready.”

“So what happens in the interim? You check yourself into therapy to try and deal with your unresolved issues while she and her buddy make fast food of the city? Well boo-fucking-hoo. Get over it. Grow a spine.”

“You don’t understand…”

“Oh, I think I understand just fine. You just don’t care anymore. You know, I don’t know why I’m surprised by this little revelation, I mean, you may have a soul, but it doesn’t mean you have a heart.”

“Kate, I didn’t come here to argue about the philosophical, I came here because I need your help. I can’t fight them alone.”

There was a long silence as Kate tried to establish whether or not he was being honest with her. As was her routine, she locked eyes with him, pulling away from the gaze once she had established his authenticity.

“You should have thought about that before you told Cordelia and Wesley to hit the pavement.”

“It was for their own good Kate.” There was another brief pause before the fire in Kate’s eyes subsided and she turned to him expectantly.

“So? What do you need?” Using the opportunity to get out of her seat, Kate replaced some of the files in her cabinet.

“Manpower. I’ve got the first part organised, but I need your help for the second.” Kate looked at him skeptically.

“I’m guessing this involves the words ‘unlawful’ and ‘me’?” Angel’s face shifted into a small grin, and Kate was so taken aback that she walked into her desk.

“You always were perceptive Kate. Now here’s what I need you to do…”

PART 2

Having scoured all the usual haunts, Buffy had yet to come upon any of her friends, which was surprising, considering that they had this knack of running into each other at every turn. It was still early, but Buffy was feeling decidedly antsy. Ever since she had woken up, there had been this haze of restlessness trailing after her, nudging the back of her mind and trying to convey something to her. It was to her detriment that she paid no heed to these warnings, for no sooner had she decided to walk back to campus, than she ran headlong into Willow and Xander, followed closely by her anxious-looking Watcher. Seeing Giles out with her two best friends was not unusual, just strange, and this led Buffy to one conclusion. No more sleeping in late. Picking up Xander, who had fallen victim to being “bumped” by a Slayer, Buffy looked to Giles, her jade greens sparkling with equal amounts of curiosity and hesitation.

“Just tell me Giles.” Buffy stood her ground, trying to ascertain whether the news was of the good-old-crappy variety or the start-stocking-up-on-tinned-food kind.

“Well Buffy, it seems that once again your help is required in the City of Angels…so to speak. It appears they have a problem, or two for that matter, that they are having difficulty dealing with.” Buffy crunched up her face as she usually did when Giles’ verbosity overtook the need to get to the point.

“Giles…” Seeing the frustration on his friend’s face, Xander chose that moment to step in.

“Darla’s back with Drusilla, the happy, looney sidekick, Angel is having “issues” with the having-to-kill-her part and they need some of your special Slayer juice to wipe out the nasty bloodsuckers. Was I not to the point as well as constructing a powerful sentence?”

Buffy let out the breath she had been holding and her entire body seemed to relax.

“Is that it? I’m needed in LA to slay? You know, I would have been surprised if it weren’t for the fact that this is like, my job.” Willow giggled at her friend and grabbed her hand, pulling her in the direction of the campus.

“Come on Buff, we have to get you packed.”

“Just as well that whole silver bullet thing is for werewolves. Imagine the hassle I would have had going through customs.”

“Buffy. It’s a domestic flight. You don’t go through customs.” There was a pause as Buffy mulled this over.

“Then I’ll just have to fly to Spain first.”

“Adios senorita.”

“Huh?”

“Just as well you chose Psychology as your major. You suck at Spanish!” Willow suddenly pushed off and launched herself into a sprint, to which Buffy followed with great gusto. Giles and Xander watched as the streaks of red and blonde disappeared down the street, and as men, they did what they knew was best when it came to women. They looked at each other and shrugged.

Later that day, armed with a duffel bag and enough gum to last a lifetime, Buffy said goodbye to her mom and friends as she entered the boarding area of the airport. Xander gave her a goofy grin and hugged her tightly, while Willow planted a quick kiss on her cheek and followed it up with a monster embrace.

“Will, need to breathe….must have air…” Smiling sheepishly, Willow stepped back so that Buffy’s mom could say farewell. After going through all the do’s and don’ts, Joyce hugged her daughter fiercely and popped an extra hundred dollars into the pocket of her jeans.

“Mom?” Joyce looked at her daughter sternly.

“For emergencies only Miss Elizabeth Anne Summers.” Buffy made a gagging motion at the announcement of her full name and picked up her baggage. She turned to face Giles who was standing a little off to the side, and without warning, propelled herself towards the Englishman, enveloping in the hug she deemed “The Slayer Special”. Without hurting the receiver of the hug, Buffy applied enough pressure to make sure that they remembered it for at least two days. Giles blushed slightly, as he always did during overt displays of affection, and went about clearing his throat and cleaning his glasses simultaneously. Throwing one last look towards her little send off committee, Buffy waved and walked through the boarding gate.

Once on the plane, Buffy found herself seated alone at the back, and she used this opportunity to catch up on some much-needed rest. She couldn’t understand why she was so tired. She knew that she had acquired at least 8 hours the night before, yet here she was, pulling off a relatively decent impression of a conscious person, while her mind and body insisted that she was anything but. Stretching out across the three-seater, Buffy thanked her lucky stars for her lack of height and settled down to sleep. Alas, the dream that she had forgotten the night before had not forgotten her, and she awoke with a start as the aircraft touched down in Los Angeles. Gathering her belongings, she stepped off the plane and into the sunshine that protected the innocent so well by day, but left them to fend for themselves when night fell.

She entered the airport and scanned the faces of the people waiting at the terminal, almost expecting to see someone she knew. Even for her, this was an inane thought. Buffy knew all of five people in LA: one who had problems with daylight, two who had problems with the one who had problems with daylight, one with a badge and a fifth in jail. Not exactly the group from Beverly Hills 90210, but you take what you can get. Buffy exited the airport building and hailed a taxi, directing the driver to the hotel that Angel now inhabited. She had heard about his split from Wesley and Cordelia via Giles, whose hunger for hot gossip was the one “Americanism” he granted himself. Buffy was surprised that Angel had let them go, but one look at the situation and she understood perfectly. Angel seemed to have an affinity for strong blondes. Buffy was just going to go in, find out what had to be done, do it, and go home. She was in no mood to stick around with her broody ex-love in a city that, even she admitted, frightened her a little.

The taxi driver chattered away mindlessly, relaying all the information that tourists drooled over, but Buffy was in no mood to make small talk. She leaned back into the fake leather seats and pretended to nod off, but sleep caught her by surprise again. She woke up when she realised that the motion of the car had stopped and the driver was clearing his throat loudly. Breaking into a small smile, Buffy alighted from the taxi and stood outside the hotel. She was admiring the renovations that Angel had made when the door opened a fraction to reveal Angel standing inside. He was careful not to step any further and Buffy closed the door behind her as she entered. They simply stared at each for a few minutes, neither one sure of how to approach each other. Eventually, Angel stepped forward and pulled her into a light embrace. Buffy was surprised at the gesture, and she made a mental note to congratulate Cordelia on educating Angel in human affection. She returned the hug and examined the lobby she was standing in.

“It’s beautiful. Stunning, actually.” Buffy let her eyes roam all over the room, drinking in the plush carpeting, the fine paintings, the antiques. “Cordelia did most of it. You know what she’s like. Hand her an immeasurable amount of money and freedom, and…” He gestured to his surroundings and Buffy nodded in agreement. While small talk is definitely part of visiting etiquette, Buffy was once again not in the right frame of mind to do it. She dropped her bag on the floor and seated herself on one of the couches. She motioned for Angel to sit, but he was already occupied with pacing up and down the room. Buffy pulled up her legs and rested her chin on her knees. She watched him wear a hole into the floor for all of two seconds before telling him to bring her up to speed. He stopped and looked at the floor.

“Thank you for coming. I always knew you would, but considering how things were when you left here the last time, I must admit, doubt did creep in.”

“From what I understand, the double D’s are back in town – with full power and ferocity – and you are having what we like to call “issues”. So you need me to get rid of your problem. Again. Does she ever die? I mean, she’s like that gum that you can never quite scrape off your shoe, and the more you try to get it off, the harder and more stubborn it gets.”

“Not my choice of metaphor, but in essence, yes. She was brought back and I can’t kill her. The first time was difficult enough, and I don’t think I can handle a second. Actually, I know I can’t.”

Buffy rocked back and forth, absorbing all of this information and trying to figure out why Angel needed her. Instead of punishing her weary mind further, she asked him.

“That part I understand, but why do you need me? I know you, Cordy and Wes aren’t exactly the cast of Happy Days, but surely you could have asked them to help? And what about that guy Cordy told me about. Bazooka?”

“Gunn.”

“Yeah, him. Why couldn’t you ask him to deal with Barbie and Co.” Angel paused for a moment and then slowly made his way to sit beside Buffy. From the way he moved, and the expression on his face, Buffy knew something wasn’t right.

“You know, I have this nasty invisible tattoo that occasionally appears on my forehead, and those who can see it tell me it says “Please withhold vital information from me”. If you’re seeing that now, ignore it. What’s the catch? Where are the strings?” Buffy paused for a breath. “I’m really tired Angel. Don’t screw with me. Tell me.” The words were barely out of her mouth before Angel stood up and began to speak.

“It’s a prophecy. It was one that was thought up as a deal between good and evil, by good, purely because they knew it would never come to pass. The reason it would never come true was because of the Chosen One, the Slayer.”

“Hello? Slayer present. Chosen One is in the house. Why are you telling me this if I’m the person who prevents it from happening?”

“It has nothing to do with you Buffy.”

“What?! Are you listening to yourself? It’s me, it’s not me, make a decision!”

“If you would let me finish, I will.”

“Fine. So?”

“It has more to do with the ‘One’ than the ‘Chosen’. You see, it stipulates that the only time the prophecy can come true, is if the forces of good and evil are exactly balanced, and with Darla’s resurrection and Drusilla at her side, the stakes – pardon the pun – are high, and they’re equal.” Buffy looked to the ceiling for support. She was usually quick to catch onto prophecies and the impending doom that followed, but she was going to be the first to admit that she was clueless, and she did so with much proficiency.

“Huh?” Angel resisted the urge to sigh and explained it once more.

“It is written that the forces of good and evil will embark on a battle of the highest importance when vampires meet Slayers. Two against two. Each pair consisting of one light and one dark. They will fight not only against each other, but also against the good and evil within themselves, and the battle cannot be won by one. For a side to succeed, both fighters must remain after the bloodshed.”

He stopped after this and examined Buffy. She was pensive at first, analysing the various rules and requirements. She turned to Angel, her face expressing a myriad of emotions as the realisation finally hit her. She stood up and walked over to the long wooden desk that served as reception, leaning against it for support. Her legs felt weak and she grasped the sides fiercely. She remained there. Her breath was coming to her in short bursts and the table was beginning to crack beneath the strength of her grip. Angel did not move. He was hesitant to approach her, and when he heard and saw the desk shatter, he was glad he had not. Buffy’s face was flushed and her eyes were shining with equal measures of rage, uncertainty and terror. She pushed herself away from the broken surface and walked towards Angel. He stood up and met her as she reached him, their faces inches apart. Buffy tilted her head and almost imperceptibly to the human ear, uttered “It’s never going to happen”. Angel stepped back. He was frightened by her tone of voice, but what frightened him even more was what she just said. It could be taken two ways. Firstly, it could mean that the prophecy was as good as discarded, in which case he would be relieved. The alternative was less appealing. Buffy had figured out what the main requirement was, and she had no intention of fulfilling it. Unfortunately, he never had the opportunity to ask her as Buffy had managed to get herself and her baggage out of the door and into the light.

PART 3

Cordelia was seated on the couch in her living room. She had been sitting in the same position for approximately two hours and each time she shot a look at the clock, the same realisation hit her. She was bored. She thought back on her days in Sunnydale and a small smile appeared on her face as she recalled the numerous occasions when she had wished herself anywhere in the world but there. Her smile broadened as she realised the ironic twist that was happening as she stared at the ceiling and prayed for something evil to appear just so she had something to do. Hell, she would even take one of her visions at this point. Instead, there was a knock at the door and Cordelia answered it faster than she had ever high-tailed it to Bloomingdales on their Manic Monday Sales.

The person who stood in front of her evoked a series of emotions within her. In addition to the hesitation she felt at times, she felt secure, uneasy and excited simultaneously, and when the blue eyes that were locked with hers crinkled with the weight of a smile, the one emotion that stayed with her was joy. She motioned for Kate to enter and resumed her position on the couch. Kate paced up and down the room, checking the locks on the windows and sub-consciously fingering her gun that remained in its holster. Cordelia watched Kate with a measure of interest and amusement, and when Kate felt the brunette’s eyes on her, she resigned herself to a place on the couch as well. They sat there for a while, and just when Kate was beginning to think that Cordelia would not speak, she did.

“I thought you were at work?”

“I took a long lunch.” Cordelia glanced at her ticking enemy.

“It’s 4pm.” This earned her a strange look from Kate.

“I said it was long.”

“Kate, as much as I would like to bestow upon you the title of Queen of Sloth, I’m afraid that position has been filled. Plus, you don’t meet the requirements.” Kate pulled a face of mock horror.

“There are requirements? No one informed me about this?”

“You must have missed the memo.”

“This is an outrage. I am seriously considering writing a formal letter of complaint.”

“Well don’t leave it where I left that last memo, or else no one will ever get it.”

“And where would that be?” Cordelia grinned widely.

“On the bed.” Kate returned the grin, enjoying the cat and mouse game at hand.

“And why is the bed a bad place to leave important notices?” Cordelia shifted towards Kate and bent her head so that her lips were almost touching Kate’s ear before whispering: “Because we never make it there.”

Kate’s eyes adopted a hazy look and she tilted her head to kiss the striking brunette, running her fingers through her recently chopped locks. Cordelia found herself in an uncomfortable position, her body half-raised and half-seated, and with a little help from Kate, she rectified her predicament and landed up straddling the blonde. They proceeded to kiss each other fervently, and just when it looked like clothes were about to be flung across the room, Kate pulled away. Sensing that Kate was perplexed, Cordelia removed herself and sat on the coffee table, resting her hands on Kate’s knees and waiting for her to speak. Kate let her head drop onto her chest, and for a minute, Cordelia thought she had fallen asleep, but she raised her head and locked startling blue eyes with deep brown ones. Cordelia could not figure out what was running through Kate’s mind – her visions were irritatingly specific – and Kate’s strange behaviour was beginning to worry her.

“What is it? You’ve been acting all loopy since you arrived.” Kate shifted her gaze to Cordelia and the pain in them shocked the visioner. “Kay, what is it? You have to tell me. Is it Wes? Is he ok? Oh my god, Gunn! Was he hurt?”

“Cordy, they’re both fine.”

“Well then what is it?” Kate took Cordelia’s hands in hers, kissed both her palms gently and began to speak.

“Angel came to see me.” Cordelia immediately stiffened at the mention of the vampire’s name.

“What did Mr. Broody want?”

“He needs help Cordy. Ever since Drusilla turned Darla again, the two of them have been tearing up this town like it’s their own private all-you-can-eat.”

“And how is this our concern?”

“It’s our concern because no matter what you say or think, there’s that part of you that cannot stand by and watch innocent people die. Especially when we have the ability to stop it.”

“But why does he need us? He of all people should know that a correctly-placed piece of wood takes care of unwanted bloodsuckers.” Kate exhaled slowly.

“It’s not that simple Cordy. However much Angel hates Darla, so he loves her equally, and he can’t bring himself to kill her. Plus there’s this whole prophecy thing attached. I don’t really understand all of it, and honestly, I’d prefer not to, but the fact remains that it’s going to take a lot of people to take care of this once and for all.”

“Ok, first of all, whenever the word “prophecy” is mentioned, that means we’re screwed whatever we do, and secondly, where do we come in? In what way are we putting our asses on the line this time?”

Kate took another deep breath and pulled Cordelia back onto the couch, letting her hand rest on the back of Cordelia’s neck.

“You know how you’ve always wanted that one big break? The chance to really show everybody what a talented actress you are?”

“Duh, only like, every day.”

“Well, it’s here. It’s going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do, and I want you to think about it carefully before you agree.”

“I’m guessing this is not the lead in the new Spielberg movie.”

“I wish baby. If you agree, then I take care of the first part, but then it’s up to you.”

“Ok already! What is it?”

“This prophecy. It’s basically a meeting of good and evil, whereby both sides have a pair of fighters, and so far, good only has one.”

“Buffy.”

“Right. What we need now, is the second.”

“Woah! I may be a good actress, but I don’t want my big role to be as the dying Slayer.”

“We don’t need a replacement Cordy. We have one. You have to take her place.”

A silence as wide as the Grand Canyon fell over the room as Cordelia processed what Kate had said. When it was clear to her what Kate’s request was, she turned to face the blonde.

“No fucking way.”

“Cordy, I’m not going to push you on this, but you have to understand, there’s a shitload at stake here.”

“I am fully aware of that fact, thank you, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to grin and bear it while some psycho is let out on the street and I have to rot in her cell! There’s no chance in hell.”

“If you don’t do this, there’s a good chance this might end up as hell.”

This gave Cordelia pause, and she mulled it over before interrogating Kate.

“So how will this work? I mean, besides the fact that she’s in jail, I’m not exactly her twin.”

“If you agree to this, I’ll contact her. The plan is for her to injure herself, or get herself injured so she’ll be admitted to the infirmary. Once she’s there, the two of you will change places. We’ll get her out, she’ll do her part, and if everything goes as it should, we’ll have you out of there in under 24 hours.”

“Problem is, nothing ever goes as planned.”

“That’s the chance you have to take.”

“We have to take. I don’t think the police department will be too happy if they find out about this little switcheroo.”

“We all have to make sacrifices. It’s just a matter of how big they are.”

Cordelia smiled. “You’re amazing. Do you know that?” Kate blushed a deep shade of pink.

“Why? You’re the one who has to do the dirty work.”

“It’s not that. You’ve had all this dropped on you in a short space of time, and the only thing that matters to you is that justice is served. It’s what makes you beautiful. Well, that and your gorgeous face and your smoking figure.” Kate let out a short chuckle.

“Flattery will get you everywhere Miss Chase.” Cordelia shifted on the couch and laid her head in Kate’s lap. After staring at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity, she spoke.

“I’ll do it.”

“Cordy, you don’t have…”

“No. I know I don’t, but I want to.” Kate bent her head and brushed her lips softly against Cordelia’s.

“You’re the bravest person I know Cordy. I mean that. My job is to help and protect others, but you chose to do it.” Cordelia burrowed further into Kate’s body and the blonde stroked her hair as she said: “But there’s one thing you were wrong about.”

“What’s that?”

“There are two things I care about, and my top priority is lying right here.”

For once, Cordelia was speechless, and instead of trying to form a sentence, she lifted herself off the couch and took Kate’s hand. The blonde looked at her quizzically, but Cordelia just smiled and pulled her towards the bedroom, saying something about an important memo.

PART 4

Buffy scrutinised her surroundings and a look of severe distaste settled on her petite features. The hotel room she had rented for herself hardly classified as the Ritz, but as she did in most situations, she made do with it. Her eyes were drawn to a large patch on the cheap carpeting that appeared to be a stain of large proportions, and she wondered briefly whether she wanted to pollute her mind, thinking about what it may have been. Instead, she flopped down on the bed and communicated with the ceiling for a few moments, rehashing the conversation she had had earlier with Angel. She thought about what she had told the Scoobies back in Sunnydale. Basically, she was going to do her thing and get the hell out of Dodge City, but as was her life, things were never that simple. She had dealt with much larger problems in her time as the Slayer – and dealt with them well – but when her private emotions interfered with her ability, Buffy found herself with a huge dilemma. Her natural instincts told her to do the right thing, to do whatever was necessary in order to achieve justice, but her pride and her heart deterred her from this path. She mentally berated herself for succumbing to these feelings, but at the end of the day, super abilities or not, she was human, and human beings are allowed to feel pain and betrayal. The issue here was that the extent of this particular betrayal ran to her very core, and it manifested itself in a deep-seated package of hatred.

The intensity of her emotions may have deterred her, had she not made a conscious decision to beat the living crap out of evil once and for all. If she had to face an aspect of her past that still ate at her, so be it. She would do it because she was the Slayer and no one fucked with the Slayer. Her mind made up, Buffy picked up the phone and called Angel. The tone of his voice indicated that he was surprised to hear from her, and this pissed her off a little. She expected Angel to have more faith in her. Well ha-fucking-ha. The Freudian slips begin. She told Angel to set the wheels in motion. Whatever had to be done, was to be done. She was ready.

*****

Hanging up the phone, Angel immediately picked it up again and dialed Kate’s precinct. On being told that Detective Lockley was not there, Angel searched through a pile of papers before coming upon her cell phone number. He dialed with frantic fingers and tapped his foot against the floor as it rang. The voice that answered was huskier than usual, and with his finely tuned hearing, Angel noted the presence of someone else in the background.

“This is Lockley.”

“Kate. I’ve got the green light. How is everything on your end?” Angel heard the unmistakable sound of a giggle being stifled before Kate cleared her throat and answered.

“Ready, steady, go.” If he had been able to breathe, Angel would have done so with a sigh of relief, but circumstances withstanding, he thanked Kate.

“You’re welcome. I hope this works. There’s never been so much on the line.”

“I know Kate, I know.”

“Do you?” Angel chewed on this for a while.

“Can I speak to Cordelia?” There was an audible gasp on the other end of the phone, but Angel could not decipher whether it came from Kate or a very surprised Cordelia. There was a lot of shuffling and muffled conversation before Cordelia’s voice came onto the line.

“Yes?”

“Cordelia.”

“Again, yes?” The hostility in her voice was blatant and Angel knew that the hurt ran deep.

“I just wanted to thank you for what you’re doing. This means a lot.”

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t just stand by and watch the whole of L.A. burn to the ground. I did come out here to find fame, and I’m certainly not going to be the lead in Cordelia Dies a Painful Death. So, yeah, whatever.”

“I meant, it means a lot to me. I’m sorry for what I did, and I hope that when this is all over, I can repay you for being so generous to me when I was….”

“An asshole?”

“I was going for ‘incapacitated’, but that’ll do. Can you meet me at the hotel in an hour?” Cordelia told him to hold on and after a quick exchange with Kate, she told him they’d be there. Cordelia was about to hang up when Angel called her name again.

“Yes?” Angel now cleared his throat, unsure of how to approach the subject at hand.

“I…I just wanted to say that….well, it’s just that….”

“Impending world destruction aside, can you please get to a point or at the very least, form a coherent sentence?”

“I’m happy for you. It’s….good.” Cordelia smiled and turned to Kate, who having caught the last part of the conversation, was also smiling.

“Thanks Angel.”

“See you in an hour?”

“I’m ready for my close up Mr. Demille.”

PART 5

So it was that Angel found himself surrounded by a bevy of women, and not just any women. A Slayer, a visioner and a cop. Some would call him lucky, but others, espying the looks on these three faces, would call him anything but. Buffy had arrived first, choosing to pace the length of the hotel lobby while Angel read up on the specifics of the prophecy, and it was only when the doors to the hotel opened that she stopped wearing a hole into the floor. Kate entered with Cordelia by her side, and Buffy could not help but notice that their hands were entwined. Now she did not claim to know much about Cordelia, but Buffy was certain that the brunette did not make a habit of being touchy-feely with people. She was about to make an extremely snide comment – which would have done Cordelia proud – but at the last moment she intercepted a look that Cordelia directed at Kate. Buffy’s mouth closed abruptly and she kept her remark to herself, knowing better than to tear into a person who was so obviously in love. She sneaked a look at Angel, but he seemed wholly unperturbed at the situation. Then again, the guy had been around for a few centuries, making it relatively difficult to shock him.

Then again Buffy was not altogether surprised either. She had seen a lot of weird shit in her albeit short life, and seeing Cordy involved with another woman hardly registered on her weird-shit-o-meter. Speaking of weird shit, their little party seemed to be missing a vital ingredient, but Buffy was not going to bring that subject to the fore. There was an awkward chorus of greetings as the four gathered around the desk that was groaning under the weight of large, dusty books, and Buffy made a mental note to sort out some form of payment for her little breakage. Angel pointed to the page that held the delightful anecdote of good and evil, and four heads leaned in to read it. When a distinct creaking sound was heard, followed by a slight crack, the four heads retracted and Angel, taking the initiative, moved the book to a more secure location. Four sets of eyes perused the aging document before Buffy enquired as to what the plan was, specifically when it concerned the missing element of their little gathering. Kate filled her in on the details, resting her hand on Cordelia’s arm as she described the exchange that was going to take place. Having been told this, Buffy’s entire attitude towards Cordelia was abruptly turned on its head. For perhaps the first time, Buffy’s perception of the brunette as a spoilt little girl was replaced with that of a self-sufficient young woman whose bravery astounded her. Buffy said as much to Cordelia, and she was rewarded with a nod of thanks and a full, beautiful smile, which Buffy returned in equal amounts. Even Kate and Angel shared small smiles at the somewhat belated understanding that was happening between the two young women.

Buffy’s mind began to work as Angel explained the intricacies of the prophecy. In short, it involved both sets of fighters being transported to a battleground where they would fight to the death, with only one team being able to triumph overall. Buffy was clear on that angle, but as long as she didn’t know what her partner was going to be doing, she was not rushing into any battles.

“So when do we do this? I’m all for kicking evil’s nasty behind, but something tells me that my supposed partner in battle won’t be too keen on the idea. I mean, Cordy may successfully take her place, but who’s to say that she won’t just take off once she’s free?” Angel shook his head.

“If anything, it will be more of struggle to get her out. She’s changed Buffy, and not just in action, but in attitude. I may have 250 years of sin to atone for, but Faith’s guilt and her pain for what she did runs so deep that she doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to cleanse herself of it. You just have to tell her that this is her one big chance to make sure that she does the right thing this time.”

“Woah there a minute! Me tell her what? I thought Kate had already convinced her to do this, and if you think for one second that I’m going to beg her to fight with me, then you are sorely mistaken. I may have signed on to this little escapade, but I did not agree to anything that involved me groveling or begging Faith. Are we clear on that?” Angel sighed and looked to Kate for support, but the detective merely shrugged and leaned back against Cordelia.

“Good.” Buffy placed herself on a chair and continued. “Why don’t you talk to her? The last time I was here, the two of you were all but best buds. Why don’t you tell her to get off her convict ass and fight?”

“Because she needs to hear it from you Buffy. Her whole life Faith has been told that she’s a burden, a nuisance, a mistake, and the reason she went down a faulty path is because she started believing it. She knows that now, but the only way she’s ever going to be able to deal with it properly is if she knows she is needed. And not only by the people who care about her, but by those she cares about.”

“Cared. I find it highly unlikely that she still regards me with a measure of fondness.”

“You’d be surprised.”

“That’s a given.”

After reading through the entire prophecy, which resulted in three sore heads and one allergic reaction to dust, Kate took the first step towards putting their plan into action. Using Angel’s telephone, she called the correctional facility that was housing Faith and asked to speak to her. When asked what it was concerning, Kate told the secretary she was Faith’s lawyer and that there had been a development in her case. The secretary agreed and Kate praised incompetent staff for the first time in her whole career as an officer. The fact was that anyone who was familiar with Faith’s case was aware that Faith’s conviction had been based entirely on her confession, and any developments would have to be either her withdrawal or someone else’s confession. These thoughts merely cluttered Kate’s mind as she waited for Faith to come to the phone, so she cleared her mind by focussing on Cordelia, which always seemed to bring her some degree of clarity. She heard a few clicks as the call was transferred to the wing office, and amid the shouts and catcalls in the background, a breath was expelled and an inhalation heard, followed by the crackle of tobacco under intense heat.

“Yeah.” The voice that uttered this was low, husky and if Kate hadn’t known the person she was about to speak to, she would have guessed that she would have considered it somewhat sexy.

“Faith, it’s Detective Lockley. What we talked about? It’s going to happen. Soon.”

“Aw shucks Kate, now I’m gonna miss arts and crafts. I was enrolled in a needlework class, you know.”

“This is serious shit Faith.” Kate couldn’t help being aggressive. Faith’s use of her name made her uneasy in her own skin. There was just something about this girl that you couldn’t classify. “Everyone here is dedicated to making sure that this prophecy gets a one way ticket to nowhere, and we need to be sure that you’re in the same boat.”

“I dunno Kate, see thing is, I get seasick sometimes.” Kate rolled her eyes and she could feel her neck beginning to seize up. Seeing Kate’s state of obvious frustration, Buffy shook loose all her inhibitions about facing up to her sister Slayer and took the phone.

“Angel said you had changed, but I know you better than that. What do they say about a leopard? Only your spots get bigger as well.”

“B. Diplomatic as ever. I’m waiting for the day that you turn around and tell me to go fuck myself.”

“You might get your wish sooner than expected F, that is, if you have the balls to step out of your little, secure world and into my big, bad one.”

“You know, we may be on the phone, but I swear I can smell a challenge.”

“If the shoe fits…”

“Kick someone in the head with the steel tip?”

“Save it for the fight Faith.”

“Oh there’s plenty more where that came from B.”

“Good, because we’ll be there in an hour, and you’d better be ready.”

“Oh I will be.”

“Hey Faith?”

“Yeah?”

“Go fuck yourself.”

“Your wish is my command princess.”

PART 6

Faith last word was cut off by a dialing tone in her ear, and she handed the phone back to the guard whose boredom was evident on her unsmiling face. She had stood right beside Faith while the conversation took place, but even if she had caught snatches of it, it was only on Faith’s end, and that was completely undecipherable. Faith dropped her cigarette and ground it out with the heel of her boot, while simultaneously removing another from the packet in her pants. She flipped it into her mouth and lit it while she was escorted back to the wing. She walked straight into the recreation room and for the first time in the longest while, Faith felt a familiar surge of energy begin to pump through her veins. Only this time it wasn’t anger combined with her Slayer strength, but purpose, and she scanned the room, looking for the person who could possibly give her a run for her money. The problem with being beaten up by an ordinary person was that even if they used full strength against her, the wounds would begin to heal in a matter of minutes, even seconds. Faith recalled only two occasions where she had been visibly injured. Once, against a master vampire who had fucked her up mentally and physically, and the second, against her equal, who had put her into a coma for eight months after putting a knife in her gut. Faith was not an idiot. She could barely catch a whiff of a vamp. She knew what she had to do.

*****

An hour later, Kate and Cordelia pulled up to a high wire fence with a guard post in front of it. Judging by the amount of security surrounding the place, Cordelia guessed it was a maximum-security facility and she shuddered inwardly at the thought of spending the rest of her life behind these walls. She had yet to understand why Faith had chosen to do it, but she did not bother herself with trying to understand the inner-workings of Faith’s mind.

In this, she had a kindred spirit. Buffy lay tucked into the trunk of Kate’s vehicle. Her purpose was single-fold. She was there to make sure that Faith didn’t make a run for it. Although Faith could logically break out of prison whenever she wanted, Buffy was there to ensure that Faith held up her end of the bargain. If Buffy had to continue playing cat and mouse games with her, she would do it, but as soon as their task was over, she would be the first one to assist Faith in her return to the slammer. Buffy could feel her hackles rising as the gate opened, and she could almost sense the other slayer’s presence. There had always been a bond between her and Faith, but judging from past events, it was nothing more than one similarity. They were Slayers – and that was all.

Even in the state of semi-consciousness that besieged her, Faith was aware of Buffy’s proximity. Her mouth was dry and every time she swallowed the coppery taste of blood attacked her taste buds. She grimaced as she tried to move every part of her body, and her right arm responded with a definitive twinge of pain. She glanced over to where a machine blinked obnoxiously at her and noted the IV in her arm. All this would have led most people to believe that she had been severely beaten by someone, even though no one had owned up to the attack yet. Faith smiled internally, but even that hurt, so she stopped. They had given her some painkillers, which explained the cotton-wool feeling she had in her head, but the effect they had on a Slayer could be likened to injecting an elephant with an ant tranquiliser. The haze that enveloped her began to wear off and she observed her surroundings with distaste. The brighter-than-white sheets were beginning to irritate her eyes and the smell of disinfectant burned her heightened sense of smell. She was contemplating crashing out again when the door to her room opened, and two figures entered. She recognised one immediately. Kate sneaked a quick look out the door before closing it and moved to where Faith was. The brunette had an indistinguishable look on her face and Kate realised that her gaze was directed wholly towards Cordelia. The brunette that stood locked eyes with the brunette that lay in the bed, and the two examined each other warily. Faith was the first to speak. Her voice was muddled with drugs and her parched throat added to the raspy quality, yet it was still strong and full of fire.

“Your hair’s longer than mine. You’d better cut it.”

“Somehow, I don’t think that they’ll notice the length of my hair.”

“Why not? I did.” Cordelia was becoming more flustered with every minute she spent in Faith’s company, and before she stormed out of the room, Kate helped Faith out of the bed and got her dressed. Cordelia watched with a mixture of apathy and vigilance as she handed Faith her clothes and dressed herself in Faith’s prison uniform.

“Orange. I hate orange.”

“Take it up with the fashion committee while you’re here. I’m sure they’ll be anxious to solve your fashion dilemma.”

“Eat me, Psycho Slayer.”

“Is that a request or a demand Your Highness? Coz you know, there are a lot of people in here who would love to take you up on that offer. Oh, but that is only of course if Detective Kate isn’t exactly ringing your bells.”

“You’d better watch your mouth.” Kate’s hands were already balled into fists, and even though she could never face Faith on a practical level, she was willing to give it a try. Cordelia placed a hand on Kate’s shoulder.

“It’s not worth the effort Kay. Let’s do what we came here to do, because you and I know that at the end of all this, we’ll be happy.” She turned to Faith. “And you’ll be here.” Faith shrugged and made a big deal about fluffing the pillows for Cordelia who climbed into the bed and pulled the covers up to her chest. Kate bent down and whispered a few words into her ear, and Faith could not help but to be envious of the large smile that graced Cordelia’s face.

“So Cagney, we ready to jet?” Faith leaned against the door, tapping her foot in a most annoying rhythm, until Kate turned around and walked towards her.

“Let’s go.” The two were about to walk out when Cordelia called them in again. “What is it Cordy?” Cordelia gestured to her somewhat pristine condition and then drew Kate’s attention to Faith’s bruised visage. “No way. There’s no way in hell.”

“Kay, think about it logically. Won’t it look a little suspicious that the occupant of this bed went from battered to beautiful in a matter of hours? You know what you have to do.”

“I can’t Cordy. That’s asking too much.”

“I’ll do it.” Faith’s tone was equal parts irritation and indifference, and Cordelia noted the absence of any malice or pleasure in her statement.

“Fine. But not too hard.”

“It’ll be a love tap Queen C.”

Kate turned her back as Faith raised her hand to Cordelia, who in turn, shut her eyes and prayed for a speedy recovery. There was a sound of flesh meeting something hard and this was followed by nothing more than a squeal. Kate whipped her head around, expecting to find her beautiful girl in all sorts of pain, but instead, the cart that held all sorts of medical equipment had been laid to waste. Faith rubbed her wrist absentmindedly and grinned at Cordelia.

“Had you going for a minute there, didn’t I?” Before Kate could comment, Faith began applying large amounts of Mercurochrome to Cordelia’s face, adding dabs of gentian violet to create a bruised effect. When she was done with her dichromatic piece of art, she placed bandages over the area, which gave the impression of swelling and stepped back to examine her creation. “Not my best work, but it’ll do.” With that, she grabbed Kate by the arm and pulled her towards the door. “No time like the present to get the hell outta here.” Kate shook out the cobwebs that had been building in her head and mouthed a quick “I love you” to Cordelia, before being unceremoniously yanked out of the room. As the door closed, Cordelia took a deep breath and tried to relax. She hated hospitals at the best of times, but being in one when you were perfectly healthy made it unbearable. She comforted herself with the thought that this would all be over soon and Kate would be coming to get her. The world would be safe and she had done her part. Not bad for someone whose greatest ambition was to be Brad Pitt’s girlfriend. Well that’s certainly changed. Cordelia smiled to herself and without warning, closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

PART 7

Kate ushered Faith past the guards, the brunette’s head buried in her shoulder while she pretended to comfort the sobbing figure. They were almost at the car when a guard called out to them to stop. Kate swore under her breath and turned to the guard running towards them. Puffing and panting, the guard handed Kate her car keys, which she had dropped in her haste to get out of the building, turned on his heel and jogged back. Kate let out the breath she had been holding and even Faith uttered a relieved “holy shit”. Picking up the pace, Kate reached her car and unlocked the driver’s door. Reaching underneath the dash, she popped the trunk and motioned to Faith with her eyes.

“You’ve got to be shitting me.”

“Am I?”

“Why can’t I sit in the front? Won’t they be suspicious that you’re leaving with one less passenger?”

“They’ll be more suspicious if they notice that it’s not the same passenger Faith, and besides, you’ll have company.”

For the first time, Faith let her eyes wander over to where the trunk stood open, and it was as if a vision that she had had before was manifesting itself directly in front of her. The first item that appeared was the heel of a boot, and it was followed by the whole black shoe and consequently a slim leg encased in jeans. Its partner soon joined it, revealing lean thighs, a tiny waist and a washboard stomach. Faith’s eyes floated over a firm chest and wisps of blonde hair before coming to rest on a pair of eyes that would put the brightest emerald to shame. A long time ago, those eyes considered her with trust, compassion and friendship, but now, every other emotion gave way to one overriding look of hate. Faith felt herself squirm under Buffy’s scrutiny and she hoped Buffy was not aware of the effect she had on her. Faith usually didn’t give a shit, but with Buffy, something inside her made it impossible for her to ignore the blonde Slayer. She had tried to ignore her, hate her, despised her, pity her, but none of these ever took the place of the fact that Faith envied her. Not on an aesthetic level, but on an emotional level. Buffy always knew what to do, and it was always the right thing to do as well, whereas Faith had the knack of coming up well and truly fucked. Not this time, though. This time, I’m the one who’s doing the right thing, and I’ll be damned if anyone tries to take that away from me. Faith swaggered towards Buffy until she was standing in her personal space, but the blonde did not flinch.

“Miss me B?”

“Like I would a hole in my head.”

“Try one in the gut.”

“Bitter much?”

“Only when it’s cold, and that’s a lot of the time.”

“It’s LA Faith. It’s warm. The only thing that’s cold is your heart, that is, if you still have one.” Kate let out her hundredth sigh of exasperation and through clenched teeth, ordered both young women into the trunk. Deciding that they had the whole drive back for their witty banter, Buffy gestured for Faith to climb in.

“I always knew you liked it on top B.”

“Well this is the only time it’s ever going to happen, so I suggest you enjoy it.” Faith climbed into the trunk and stretched out, placing her hands behind her head. “Besides, you’d probably crush me the other way round. Didn’t anyone ever tell you that too many muscles aren’t attractive?” Buffy climbed in and rearranged Faith until they were spooning. The blonde found it highly unnerving having the brunette so close to her, especially because she could feel the soft release of air on her neck every time Faith exhaled.

“Thing is, there ain’t much to do in prison, but I guess you don’t like to think about those kind of things. It’s easy for you to find a release. You just walk around until some namby-pamby vamp chooses to mess with you, and ‘bam’, you get your rocks off. Try one day without that rush and tell me how you feel. I’d put a hundred bucks on seeing you in the gym the next day.”

“Don’t try to analyse me Faith, and I’ll grant you the same courtesy.” With that, the engine started and both Slayers were bumped around in the trunk as the car maneuvered its way along the sandy road to the gate.

Kate hit a particularly large hole in the road and Buffy grabbed onto Faith’s leg to prevent herself from banging her head against the lid of the trunk. It took the blonde a mere split second to realise what she had done, and she withdrew her hand, but not before registering the solidity of Faith’s leg. Equally, Faith took that moment to note the weight and texture of Buffy’s hand as it had rested on her leg. This all happened in a matter of seconds, but it created a mood of ambiguity that left both Slayers quiet for the better half of the journey. As they entered the city centre, flashes of light illuminated the two faces in the trunk. Buffy shifted her body slightly to the left and caught a glimpse of Faith as the reflection of a red neon light cast a shadow against her profile. Buffy was disconcerted for a moment as the person inside her who remembered what Faith used to be like, also recalled her fellow Slayer’s beauty. Faith’s complexion radiated a healthy glow, either from the red light or her present proximity to another warm body, and her dark curls framed her strangely cherubic features. What attracted Buffy’s attention the most, was the contrast between Faith’s coal black eyes and her lips that were the colour of blood. Buffy assumed that Faith’s appeal lay in this combination of eroticism and danger, but that it was to most people’s detriment that they fell for it. Admittedly, she too had fallen for Faith, but she had done so believing that Faith was an innocent that she was bound to protect.

Now, lying next to her, Buffy mentally kicked herself for being so stupid. She had never been so gullible as to let another person fool her, and then proceed to take advantage of her. The day that Buffy lost her sister Slayer to the dark side, so too did she lose her faith in human nature. The irony of her thought did not escape her. Speaking of escape, it seemed that Kate had picked the longest and most obscure route to Angel’s place of business, and Buffy’s legs were beginning to cramp up. She hazarded a guess as to what Faith felt like – being almost a head taller then her – and decided to encourage some movement in the enclosed space. Buffy stretched her legs out as far as she could and tried to roll over onto her right side. Faith grunted with irritation and extended her arms over Buffy in order to regain some feeling in them. As she did this, the potholes in LA completed their task, and the car lifted a few centimeters into the air. Still, it was enough to ensure that the two Slayers ended up facing each other, wrapped up in an embrace of some sorts. Both tried to squirm their way out of the unnerving position, but the inflexibility of the space they were in, coupled with their stiff muscles, prevented them from escaping. Buffy focussed on a small spot on the roof of the trunk, while Faith unabashedly examined every part of Buffy’s face and body.

“Do you mind?”

“Not at all.” Faith was all grins. “In fact, I don’t give a flying fuck.”

“Look, it’s bad enough that I’m stuck in an enclosed space with you, but that doesn’t mean I have to take your smart ass remarks or your grotesque ogling.”

“Ogling? Who was ogling? I was just conducting a parts check for ya B.”

“Well then by all means, let me do the same for you. Let me see…” Buffy let her gaze travel from Faith’s legs to the ends of her wide smile. “All accounted for. But wait, what’s that? I’m sorry, it seems that besides being anatomically correct, you lack all defining aspects of human emotion.”

“You’re making me blush in all the right places girlfriend.” Buffy was about to retort when Faith suddenly changed the topic. It was such a dramatic shift, that had they been in a car – or at least driving one – they would have veered right off the road.

“Did you see Out of Sight?” Buffy choked back a laugh.

“What?”

“You know, that George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez film.”

“Slaying tends to infringe on my movie viewing.” Faith appeared unperturbed by Buffy’s reply as she continued speaking.

“Anyway, George’s character is breaking out from jail and Jennifer’s character is a US Marshall who happens to be at the jail during the escape attempt. To cut a long story short, George throws her into the boot and climbs in with her while Ving Rhames drives the car out through the gates.”

“Very nice Faith. I can see the connection.” Faith carried on uninhibited.

“But that’s not the best part. There’s this really cool scene where the camera pans over both their bodies and you can see that there’s this chemistry between them. Shit, it’s so hot, you can see the screen heating up. Then the shit hits the fan, and you know it’s gonna be like real life where people don’t ever get a fucking break, especially if they’re supposed to be together.” The only sound that was evident was Faith’s breathing.

“Like I said,” whispered Buffy. “I didn’t see it.”

With that, the car came to a stop and the trunk popped open.

PART 8

Buffy didn’t know whether it was the relief of being let out of the confined space or finally, some distance being put between her and Faith that made her literally leap out of the trunk. In the process, she accidentally caught the side of Faith’s torso with her leg and the brunette Slayer hissed in pain. It wasn’t so much a sound of fury, but of tangible pain, and for the first time since they had picked her up, Buffy took a good look at Faith. While her face was only slightly bruised and her cheek covered with a small bandage, it was Faith’s arms and legs that drew Buffy’s attention. Faith climbed out of the car and stood there, looking fierce and awkward at the same time. The fierceness was inherent in her, but the awkwardness stemmed mainly from her attire. Cordelia’s clothes hardly did the rogue Slayer justice, in fact, the three-quarter skirt and top made her look quite ridiculous. But this did not deter Buffy in her scrutiny of Faith. Faith’s calves and ankles were caked in dry blood and the amount of bruising on them created the impression of one large black eye, and if her legs were a sore sight, then looking at her arms required protective glasses. The scratches on her arms appeared to have been made by fingernails, and the two thick bandages around her wrists seemed to weigh down her entire body. Her hands were increasingly damaged and the veins pervaded her young skin in such a way that almost no untouched skin was visible. Buffy let herself take all of this in before walking towards the hotel.

The door was open and Angel stood in the lobby, packing bags with innumerable types of weapons. Buffy walked in and was greeted with nothing more than a primal grunt as he continued stuffing the bags to maximum capacity. He barely even registered Faith’s presence until she sneaked up behind him and slammed him into the table. Quickly shifting into game face, Angel whipped around only to be met with a goofy grin on the face of a recently sprung convict. In spite of himself, Angel laughed and Faith responded by slapping him heartily on the back.

“Happy to see me Dead Boy?”

“You have no idea.”

“Oh, but I think I do.” Faith threw herself onto a couch. “Women trouble. I hear ya man. Ain’t brought me nothing but shit. We’re doing a lot of people a favour here, if you ask me.”

“You weren’t asked,” this, from Buffy, who was checking an entirely separate selection of weapons. “You’re here to stop this prophecy from being fulfilled. No one asked you for an opinion and if I want it, I’ll write it down and give it to you.” The brunette was off the couch faster than the speed of light, her eyes blazing with anger.

“Fuck you B.” She spat the words out as if they burned her tongue and brought herself face-to-face with Buffy. “I didn’t sign up for this shit, so let’s make one thing crystal clear. I’m here because you need me, because without me, what have you got? Jack, that’s what. Diddly-fucking-squat. If I’m not here, this whole fucking shithole of a city goes down, so I’d appreciate a little bit of gratitude in between your wise ass remarks. Got it?”

As Faith bit down on her last word, she blocked a well-aimed punch that was heading in the direction of her head. Buffy let out a shriek filled with anger and frustration, and followed up the punch with a forceful roundhouse that connected with nothing but air. This only increased her current state of rage and she launched herself at Faith, trying to engage the other Slayer in at least one or two movements. Faith was agile, fit and possibly stronger than Buffy at this point, which is why the blonde Slayer was so surprised that Faith was avoiding any kind of contact. Granted, Faith’s condition was hardly conducive to a full-on battle, but Buffy had never known her dark counterpart to shy away from confrontation. It was thus that, after chasing Faith for a good twenty minutes, Buffy relented and continued preparing the equipment. Faith, seemingly wary of the blonde Slayer, took up residence on the couch and watched everyone as they bustled around the room. Buffy could not help feeling like she was under a microscope, and for good reason. Faith watched her every move, and it wasn’t only as a defensive tactic, Buffy noted. The brunette’s eyes periodically latched onto Buffy’s body, staying there, examining, until the blonde walked away or shot Faith a death look.

The third time it happened, Buffy motioned Kate over to her and dragged her into one of the recently refurbished rooms, oblivious to the lecherous looks Faith was sending them. Kate sat down heavily on the soft bed and rubbed her fingers over her throbbing temples. She let out a sigh filled with exhaustion and this was followed by a barely audible groan, which conveyed the inner turmoil she was experiencing. If she had to be anywhere else in the world right now, she would be where she was a few hours ago. In Cordelia’s apartment, her lover wrapped up in her arms, sleeping like there was no tomorrow. As this thought hit her, so did another. If they screwed this up, there wouldn’t be a tomorrow. With that, she turned her attention to the blonde who was breathing deeply, trying to calm herself down, and waited.

“Buffy…?”

“Just give me a second Kate. I’m trying to hold onto a single non-violent thought.”

“I wouldn’t discard those, seeing as though there’s an impending battle to the death around the corner.”

“These are exclusively Faith related violent thoughts, and I don’t think anyone will be too impressed with me if I kill the other half of good’s tag team.” Kate shook her head.

“No, they wouldn’t.” There was a brief pause and Kate was about to leave when Buffy exploded.

“But come on! The girl’s a psycho! She gets her kicks out of killing, maiming and screwing with people’s heads! How on earth am I supposed to fight the good fight with the incarnation of evil standing next to me, all decked out in leather? I don’t think I’m being unreasonable? Do you?”

Kate decided that this was the perfect time to consider that question rhetorical, but the look in Buffy’s eyes convinced her otherwise.

“Buffy, the question of reason is one that basically defines my job - trying to uncover the motivation for what people do and why they do it – but ever since you guys fell into my life, I’ve had to suspend that reason in favour of belief. It’s a matter of having, for lack of a better word, a little faith, and in order for the two of you to do this, you’re going to have to trust each other.”

“That’s pretty hard when the person at your side wants to fuck you, in both senses of the word.” At this, Kate’s face became an expression of puzzlement. Buffy looked at the cop and exhaled roughly. “Oh come on Kate…don’t tell me you haven’t seen it.”

“See what?”

“The way Faith looks at me. I thought you of all people would notice it.”

“And why is that?”

“Because of you and Cordelia.”

“I see. So, you think Faith’s in love with you.”

“No, I think she’s got the hots for me. Then again, she basically screws anything with a pulse.” At a raised eyebrow from Kate, Buffy increased her rate of speech. “Why would you say she’s in love with me?”

“Well, you referred to me and Cordy, and the way we look at each other is because we are in love. Faith has the hots for you. That’s lust, but you have to remember that Faith has difficulty interacting with people if it’s not on a physical level.”

“Meaning?”

“She has no emotional attachments. She flirts with you because that’s her way of showing you that she values you.”

“You’re kidding right?”

“Nope. It’s all in her file at the prison. After she beat the crap out of her first cell mate, they had her go through a number of psychological evaluations, and the results, well, let’s just say that it gives one a little more understanding with regards to Faith.”

“She’s a psycho. Understood. Seriously Kate, she hasn’t changed. She picked a fight with someone to get into the infirmary, and if that’s what she looks like, I’m guessing the other person was DOA.” Kate’s mouth turned up into a half grimace, half smile as she shook her head softly.

“You know, for the Chosen One, you sure are slow sometimes. Faith didn’t get into a fight, Buffy. She did that to herself. Think about it, no one could have hurt her like that, so she did it herself. And the bandages around her wrists? What human being, or demon for that matter, would be able to hold Faith down and slash her wrists? Think about it.”

Kate lifted herself off the bed and walked back into the lobby. She spotted Faith on the floor doing one-armed push-ups and barely breaking a sweat, and it was at that moment that Buffy chose to reappear. Faith paused mid-push-up and it looked like another confrontation was on the books. Instead, Buffy lowered herself to the floor, assumed the same position as Faith and told her to start counting. Smiling widely, Faith complied and the two Slayers began. This soon led to an all-out training session and Faith and Buffy became oblivious to anything else other than the sweat glistening on the other, the rush of air as punches were blocked, connected or ducked and the sounds of the city outside. It was 8pm when Kate next examined her watch: time to find Darla and Drusilla.

PART 9

One would think it would be relatively easy to find the two female vampires: follow the path of death, destruction, chaos and carnage. Hardly the Yellow Brick Road, but it would inevitably lead to the source of the aforementioned plights. Unfortunately, things never work out exactly as planned when it comes to apocalyptic crunch time. Whereas over the past few weeks, Darla had been dropping in on Angel for regular visits, she was not to be found at that particular moment in time. It figures, thought Buffy, there’s never a goddamn vampire around when you need one. Angel ran out to the demon karaoke bar, hoping to garner a lead as to Darla’s whereabouts, but he came back with nothing but a Barry Manilow tune bouncing around his head. Equally, Kate put out an APB on the duo but so far there had been no sightings. Faith had taken it upon herself to use her freedom to its full potential, and she was at present, wolfing down large slices of pizza, coupled with copious amounts of Mountain Dew. Buffy watched with fascination as the food and drinks disappeared into the cavernous pit that was Faith’s stomach. As a Slayer, she knew the hunger that took her over from time to time, but even she had to admit that Faith had it down to a fine art. She continued scrutinising the brunette until Faith looked up at her with hard eyes.

“What?” This one word was almost incomprehensible, owing to the amount of pizza that was still present in Faith’s mouth, but Buffy merely shrugged and remained quiet. “Well it must be something B, coz you’re peepers have been locked on me for the last 20 minutes. You aren’t perving over me, are ya?”

“No Faith, but even if I was, watching you inhale that amount of starch and cheese would be enough to put me off permanently.” Faith wiggled her eyebrows.

“So you saying that you’ve thought about it?”

“Get your mind out of the gutter Faith. You’re making me nauseous.”

“Sweet talk like that only makes me want you more B.” Buffy released a grunt of disgust and removed herself to the far end of the room, taking a seat on the couch next to a frazzled-looking Kate.

“You ok Kate?” Kate lifted her head out of her hands and gave Buffy a look that said it all. “Sorry. Stupid question.”

“It’s ok Buffy. I’m just worried about Cordy. I mean, we’ve used almost all of our resources and we still don’t have even a whiff of Darla and Drusilla. This is a city of 8 million people. We could be at this for days. I can’t just let her stay in that prison while we chase after demons who don’t want to be found.”

“I know Kate, but we’re doing the best we can, and Cordelia knows that.”

“For my peace of mind, I hope she does.” Kate’s hands moved to her head as a familiar throbbing began and she massaged her temples lightly. “I just wish that for once we’d get a fucking break. We’re looking for two sadistic vampires whose main hobby is mass destruction and the killing of innocent human beings. How hard can it be to find them?” Kate let out a harsh laugh and buried her head further into her hands.

“How about this underground thing?” The sentence fell into the middle of the room like a bulldozer dropping a ton of cement, and three sets of eyes turned to look at the rogue Slayer sprawled out on the floor. “What?”

“What underground thing?” The green in Buffy’s eyes blinded Faith momentarily, before she replied.

“This stupid-assed rave thing that’s happening tonight. I don’t know. It’s some big party where the discontented youth get together, take drugs and pretend that love and happiness still rule the world. Dumb fuckers.”

“Where did you hear about this? How could you know about this?” The blonde Slayer’s voice rose at least two octaves as she directed these questions at Faith.

“Uh, I looked at the flyer that came with the pizza.” This time the silence that fell upon the room was one of realisation, and Buffy had to hold herself back from throwing her arms around Faith. The brunette knew that she had hit upon something big and her features brightened into a wide smile. This seemed to have a domino effect on the people in the room. Buffy beamed, Kate broke into a weary smile and Angel let loose one of his rare full-toothed grins. All four of them knew that they had finally been cut a break. In the proceeding pandemonium, Angel gathered weapons, Kate phoned the organisers of the event to get clearance and the two Slayers did what they did best. They fought. Only this time, it was over attire and accessories.

Standing at the front door in his ever-present black coat, Angel shifted the bag of weapons he was carrying onto his other arm. Kate stood at his side, tapping her foot impatiently and stealing numerous glances at her watch. Just when she was about to go upstairs and drag the two girls down to the car, she heard footsteps on the stairs and turned her gaze to meet them. The scene that played out was an odd combination of Human Traffic and She’s Out of Control. On one hand, the two girls walking down the stairs were smiling widely, yet with a definite undertone of shyness, but their clothes told an entirely different story. Kate sighed inwardly as she realised that Cordelia was not going to be happy about the unabashed raiding of her wardrobe, but as the British said :”For Queen and country”. Well if all the soldiers looked this good, thought Kate, we wouldn’t have wars to worry about. She let her eyes wander over the blonde who was walking towards her and Angel. Buffy was clad in skin-tight white pants that seemed to blend into her body; the white creating a stark contrast against her bronzed complexion. She wore a pink, snakeskin top that tied numerously at the back, exposing her toned stomach and her hair was pulled up into a wild ponytail. White platform shoes covered her feet and a chunky gold belt of loops hung just below the waist of her pants. Her make-up was a dazzling array of glitter, sparkles and hues of pink and white, and if Buffy looked like an angel, then Faith was her absolute counterpart.

She too wore pants, and the black material molded to her lithe frame. Her brunette beauty was set off by the red of the top that she wore; a deep, crimson colour that matched the shade of her lips. Her top was an altogether different style and on a basic level, it looked like someone had attacked it with an angry hand and a pair of scissors. It appeared to have originally been a polar neck, but it was missing the left sleeve and half of the torso material, revealing her equally attractive six-pack. Her hair fell in long, wavy bangs, hiding the large gold loops that hung from her ears. She favoured black boots and the dark browns and reds of her make-up finished off the portrait of a wild child. The two of them made a striking couple and for a few seconds, Kate sensed an almost explosive amount of energy permeating the room, but as suddenly as she sensed it, so it was gone. Kate exhaled, surprised to find that she had been holding her breath.

Get it together Lockley, now is not the time to perve over young women. Faith gestured to Buffy to walk ahead of her, and Kate could not help grinning slightly as the blonde walked to the door, oblivious to Faith’s outright scrutiny of her Slayer curves. Faith, on seeing Kate watching her, merely shrugged and followed Buffy outside.

The night air was a mixture of humidity and wind, creating a warm breeze that ruffled the curls of blonde and brunette hair that found themselves exposed to it. Angel loaded the convertible with the weapons bags and jumped into the driver’s seat. Buffy was about to open the passenger door when Kate launched herself over the back door and landed next to Angel. Buffy sent her a look of exasperation, but Kate was already on her phone, calling ahead to notify security of their imminent arrival. With much deliberation, Buffy took a seat in the back, and although her and Faith had done a certain amount of bonding while getting dressed – which was more courtesy than encouraged – she was still uncertain about what was going on in her partner’s mind. Faith was the last one into the car, and she performed a double handspring to land next to Buffy. The blonde snorted.

“Show off.”

“Just checking to see if I still got it B.”

“You’ve got it. I just hope you remember how to use it.”

“Trust me B.”

“Oh that’s rich coming from you. Why don’t you go back in time and un-threaten my friends and my mother, and then come back and ask me to trust you.”

“If I could, I would B, but it’s just not a possibility. I’m doing the best I can.” Buffy could not deny that Faith appeared to be genuine, but as much belief as she had in people, she was not willing to let her guard down yet. Unfortunately, will power and instinct are two separate commodities and as Angel’s convertible sprung to life and took off down the roads of Los Angeles, Buffy turned to Faith and began to speak. Buffy’s words were audible only to Faith, as the traffic and nightlife of the City of Lights shielded the other two occupants of the car from the conversation behind them.

“I hate you Faith.” At this, the brunette’s eyes shaded over, incorporating both anger and pain as she stared at the blonde. “At least that’s what I used to think. Actually, I thought that up until a few hours ago, before Kate told me that you did the number on yourself, and before I realised that I didn’t hate you so much for what you did to my loved ones, but for what you did to me.” Faith’s look of confusion prompted Buffy to elaborate. “Not the physical stuff Faith, because I’m guilty of that too. I’m talking about how you took away my belief in the good of human nature. You hurt me the most by betraying me, by diminishing what little trust I was willing to put into other people. For lack of a better word, you took away my faith.” Faith’s mouth was parted slightly as she absorbed all that Buffy was saying, and as soon as the blonde was finished, she snapped her mouth shut and sat back into the leather seat. She tilted her head towards the sky and inhaled deeply, appreciating the freedom-scented fresh air that washed over her. Having done that, she shifted her position so that her mouth was directly next to Buffy’s ear and her husky voice began to infiltrate the blonde’s body as she spoke.

“You want to talk about faith? About trust? About belief? Then try this on for size sister. You were it. You were the be all and the end all when it came to me. You had my undying faith. I believed in you because you saw me. Not the skanky-assed psychotic whore that everyone assumes I am, but as an equal, as a Slayer, and no matter how far I pushed you, you always went back to your beliefs. But you left me behind B. Soldiers don’t leave their wounded behind. They carry them. They try to save them. You wrote me off because my game plan didn’t fit in with yours, and that’s when I stopped giving a shit. Let me tell you now B, apathy is a dangerous way to live your life. No pain, no joy, no emotion. It’s all about the basic execution of inhaling and exhaling.” Faith pulled away and Buffy could feel the heat on the shell of her ear where Faith’s breath had been.

“Look Faith, all I need to know is if I can trust you right now, this instant. I need to be sure that you’ll fight with me to stay alive.”

“I don’t wanna die B.”

“Those bandages on your wrists tell a different story.” Faith was silent before tearing the bandages off and throwing them onto the road behind her.

“Will you survive with me Faith?”

“I’m damaged B, and you know what they say about damaged people…” Buffy shook her head. “Your movie knowledge is appalling. Jeremy Irons, Juliette Binoche, ring any bells?” Again, the blonde shook her head. Faith was about to turn away when Buffy placed her hand on the brunette’s arm.

“What do they say about damaged people Faith?”

“Damaged people are dangerous because they know how to survive.” Buffy moved her hand to where Faith’s was and she clasped it. Faith was taken aback at the gesture, but she followed suit, gripping Buffy’s hand. As the car hurtled into the night, Faith thrust their joined hands into the air and let out a mighty warrior roar, which for all purposes, sounded like music to Buffy’s ears.

PART 10

They knew they were close to their destination. The throbbing bass that was emanating from the fully lit warehouse emitted sound waves that enveloped the four passengers in the car, as they drove through the security checkpoint. Angel pulled the car up in front of the main entrance and killed the engine. There was a moment of silence as everyone listened to the hard beat, each interpreting it in his or her own way. Angel’s pose was stoic on account of his aversion to anything but weepy ballads, Kate’s face was a mask of indifference, and Buffy bopped sub-consciously to the beat, all the while shooting glances at Faith, whose rapturous expression fascinated her. Faith was barely moving, but the small movements that she was making drew Buffy’s eyes towards her. Angel was the first to exit the car, followed by an energised Buffy, a concerned Kate and a mildly hesitant Faith. The four stood outside the entrance and decided on a strategy. Kate would make her way to the surveillance room to see if she could spot Darla or Drusilla, Angel would position himself on the rafters to aid in an attack and Buffy and Faith were designated the entirety of the warehouse. Faith made a comment about “the short end of the stake”, but one look from Kate, accompanied by the word “Slayer”, seemed to satisfy her sense of fair play. That said, Kate left for the security room and Angel climbed the fire escape to gain entrance to the roof. Left alone outside, the two Slayers took one last look at each other and walked in.

The first thing that hit them was the heat. A combination of hot lights and body heat created a stifling atmosphere and Buffy was momentarily at a loss for breath. The air was thick with the smell of something herbal, then something medicinal, then something sweet. These scents attacked Buffy’s taste buds and with every inhalation, her lungs filled with these strange new fragrances. Faith, on the other hand, appeared to be basking in the glow of chaos around her, touching the air as if it were something tangible.

Shaking off the distraction to her olfactory senses, Buffy’s next act was to focus her attention on the people in front of her. A pulsating mass of bodies met her gaze and the lasers that punctuated the heaving crowd prevented her from making out individual faces. This scared her and she felt a wave of panic wash over her. This was not fear of what was to come, but the fear of the unknown, of a life spent in a state of secure bliss. Buffy closed her eyes and just for a minute, she imagined herself to be one of them: free, unabashedly frivolous and happy. Most of all, happy. Then her eyes flew open and she was alone again. A lone warrior intent on a quest. Then she felt a hand on her shoulder, and she remembered that she was not alone. She had a partner this time - a strong partner. An equal in strength, speed, agility and skill, and someone who was fighting to survive.

Faith pulled Buffy into the palpitating crowd, before the blonde could refuse, and wove her way into the middle of the dance floor. Faith stopped beside an androgynous looking dancer and urged Buffy to follow her lead. The brunette began to dance, and even though the rapid fire of the beat was not conducive to it, she danced slowly; her hips and pelvis leading every move of her body. Buffy tried to tell Faith that they should be looking for their combatants, but the music was deafening, and her shouts dissolved in the fury of the music. Buffy stood. She was the only person not moving. This sparked off something inside her and it was that little voice that told her that being an outsider was not a role she wanted to play, not now and not ever. So she danced. She danced as if she had never before moved her body in that way. She felt every beat, every rhythm driving straight through into her mind, encouraging her to do more, to be more, to have more.

Her eyes closed, Buffy felt hands on her face and shoulders, but they registered merely as touch and in that moment, she did not want it to stop. She felt warmth and it was then that she opened her eyes. Faith was inches away from her, her dark eyes taking shelter under their heavy lids, and Buffy gasped at their close proximity. Again, the unmoving air clouded around her and it all became too much for her. Her legs weakened and she grabbed onto Faith for support.

The brunette’s eyes flew open and she found them engaged with Buffy’s hazy greens. Immediately, the rogue Slayer knew that something was wrong and she gripped Buffy’s arms while trying to decipher what was going on in her fellow Slayer’s mind. Buffy was strong, Faith knew this, but looking at her counterpart at this instant, Faith suddenly understood something very important about Buffy: she was strong. She was strong not only because of her calling, and her endless training, but she was strong because she pushed herself to be. She was strong because she made herself believe that she was never strong enough, and that battle was one that would never be won. Faith realised that her and everyone else’s expectations of Buffy would never rival those she had of herself, and that is why she was the Chosen One. Garnering strength of physicality was nothing when compared to strength of spirit and character, and Faith absorbed this as she held onto Buffy, swearing right then and there that she would be strong enough for both of them. When it appeared that Buffy was regaining some composure, Faith loosened her grip and let her hand drop to meet Buffy’s. The blonde clasped it and Faith led them off the dance floor.

Looking up to the ceiling, Faith spotted Angel. Well I’ll be damned, he looks like he’s soaking up sun in the Bahamas. Faith directed Buffy’s gaze to where she was looking and the blonde smiled. Angel sat on one of the steel bars that ran across the warehouse, his feet dangling high above the dance floor, with his head tilted back and a small smile apparent on his face. The reason for his enjoyment was evident as a huge imitation of the sun revolved above him, shooting counterfeit rays of fluorescent light all over his body. Buffy often wondered what it would be like to live life in the dark, not realising that the person standing next to her knew that feeling only too well. Faith continued with her exodus from the crowd and Buffy instinctively linked her hand with the brunette’s, causing Faith to whip her head around and steal a quick glance at Buffy. Eventually, the two found themselves a good distance away from the dance floor, and in the middle of what seemed like an unruly living room. Chairs, couches, beanbags and throw rugs were scattered over the length of the area, populated by bodies in various romantic, platonic and unconscious positions. The two Slayers took up residence on a large beanbag, which caved as soon as they sat down. This resulted in Buffy lying half in Faith’s lap, while Faith grabbed onto Buffy’s leg for support before she hit the ground.

“Sorry B. I hate faulty beanbags.” Faith removed her hand from Buffy’s leg and seated herself on the floor.

“I guess they just don’t make them like they used to,” said Buffy as she joined Faith on the floor. They sat and smiled at each other, occasionally scanning the room for any signs of the two vampires, or just to check out the strange people that seemed to wander in and out.

“What is she wearing!?” Buffy’s horror at some of the attire tickled Faith.

“This from someone who cites pastels as the main ingredient of her wardrobe.”

“I wouldn’t be too mouthy Miss ‘If-It-Ain’t-A-Dead-Cow-I-Ain’t-Wearing-It’.”

“Do I detect some sarcasm?”

“Now I know you’re a rocket scientist.”

“And that one earns you another point on my callous count.”

“I didn’t know we were keeping score.”

“I guess you missed that memo B.”

“I never miss anything.” Buffy smiled widely and turned her head to examine a weird vision in a pink boa, yet not missing the utterance from Faith that followed her statement.

“Oh, but you did B. You most certainly did.” Buffy was about to respond when a girl ran past them covered in blood. People cheered as she ran out, oblivious to her ear-shattering screams, and the two Slayers gave themselves a moment of pause before jumping up and running towards the dance floor. Buffy’s eyes went to the ceiling, but Faith’s hand was in hers, and the brunette was already pushing her way through throes of people. While Buffy’s senses were still intoxicated with the myriad of smells, Faith’s had latched onto only one: Darla.

The two Slayers found themselves in the centre of the dance floor, but this time there was to be no pleasure found in that position. Buffy’s eyes roamed over the bopping heads all around her and Faith used this time to push herself off the floor and launch herself into the air, trying to identify the source of the scent. Faith was about to spring again when Buffy motioned her to look at the floor. Lo and behold, a faint red smear was visible on the grey concrete and Buffy bent down to touch it. Blood. Faith took this as her cue to fight her way through the throngs of people blocking their way and follow the liquid trail. There were some shouts of protest as the two shoved people out of their path, but one look from Faith deterred any bystanders from engaging them. The blood trail was becoming thicker and Buffy stepped into a puddle before shooting Faith a quizzical look. Faith returned it with one of her own and shrugged as Buffy leant in and shouted into her ear.

“What’s with the blood? They’re vampires, they’re supposed to drink!”

“Guess that maiming and gross disfigurement also fits into their portfolio! Where the hell are they?”

The words were barely out of Faith’s mouth when the music stopped abruptly. There were murmurs and shouts of disdain from the crowd as they all turned to look at the DJ box that was housed above the main bar. Instinctively, Faith curled her hands into fists and Buffy clenched her jaw tightly. A blonde head appeared in the glass window and Buffy held back the urge to gag. She knew that this had been coming, but seeing Darla in front of her did nothing to quell the fears that resided inside her. Faith placed a reassuring hand on Buffy’s shoulder.

“Like the King said B, ‘It’s now or never’.”

“I’d prefer never, but we’ll deal with now.”

“That we will. Race you?”

“You’re on.”

Propelling themselves towards the glass room, Buffy and Faith heard a silky voice coming over the speakers. Soft, almost child-like, the words were garbled, causing a few of the dancers to hurl profanity and objects at the source. The Slayers reached the box and simultaneously kicked in the glass window in front of them. Entering, they found the dead body of the DJ, coupled with some other unfortunates, laid out on the floor. Darla was leaning against the turntables, idly swaying her head from side to side, occasionally sending a look Drusilla’s way. The brunette vampire was now cradling the microphone and singing into it. The tune was unidentifiable, but somewhere in the mass of words, an eerie melody lurked, finding its way onto the dance floor where a stunned mass looked on.

“Well, well, looks like we got our money’s worth Dru. Two for the price of one.” Darla sidled up to the two girls and performed an appraisal over their attire. “Very nice, and apt too. A devil and an angel. Dru will like that one.” At the mention of her name, Drusilla abandoned the microphone and pushed play on the decks. The music started up again and the bodies began to move accordingly. None of this registered to Faith. She was intent on only one thing: no more fucking mind games. She struck Darla full in the face and the vampire’s head snapped back. Buffy took this as her cue to join the party and a fierce right kick sent Drusilla flying in the corner. Giving Buffy a thumbs up, Faith was about to attack again when she found herself on her back, her left cheek stinging from the blow Darla had just delivered. The blonde vampire stood over her.

“Sharing is caring Slayer. Everybody wants to play.” Faith spat at her.

“I don’t think you’ll like my rules.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because the game ends when you die!” Faith used the full force of her body to place her feet on Darla’s stomach and pushed her onto the turntables. The CD jumped but continued to play and Faith looked to where Buffy was pummeling Drusilla with a flurry of jabs. The brunette vampire was helpless under the fury of Buffy, and Faith hoped that Buffy now understood some of the rage she felt during these confrontations. Then Darla was back, throwing an assortment of punches in Faith’s general direction, but the brunette was quick, ducking and weaving her way out of the line of fire.

“That all you got Vampy?” Faith hit her hard. “My grandmother hits harder than that.”

“Guess she learnt that whores have to fend for themselves.”

“Figures you’d know that. Hey, what do these three letters mean to you: STD.”

“Killing you will be a pleasure.”

“Uh uh honey. That pleasure will be mine.”

The ceiling caved in and Angel landed amongst a collection of glass and plaster, stake brandished and in full game face. He ignored Darla, and threw a stake to Faith who caught it mid-air, swept Darla’s feet from under her and pounced on her, ready to slay. Buffy had Drusilla in a similar position, and she pulled the ever-present Mr. Pointy from the back of her waistband, ready to finish the job. Stake raised, Faith suddenly had the thought that this was entirely too easy. The prophecy spoke of a fierce battle between good and evil, but this was too much like a walk in the park for her liking. Shrugging at the inanity of her thought, she thrust the stake into the vampire beneath her and…..nothing. Faith looked to where Buffy was having similar difficulties and shouted to her.

“B! What the fuck the is going on?”

“I don’t know! They’re not dusting like good vampires! Something’s stopping my stake from going in! This is disappointing me!”

“No shit! What now?”

In response, a grey portal opened up above them and silver beams of light enveloped the room. Buffy shielded her eyes and Faith watched in disbelief as the blonde and the vampire beneath her were pulled upwards into the portal.

“B!” Faith’s cry echoed in the air as she and Darla were pulled and the portal closed immediately. Angel was standing in the centre of the room when Kate arrived, armed and ready to fight. Instead, she was met with the remains of a battle and a broody vampire.

“What happened?” Angel’s voice was a mixture of disbelief and sadness.

“They’re gone.”

“The vampires? Did they kill them?”

“No. They’re just gone Kate. All of them.”

“People don’t just disappear! They must be around here somewhere.”

“If you’re looking for the exit,” Angel pointed to the ceiling. “They went that way.”

...continued in part 11...

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