Chapter 23: Lesson #1 - Respect
Faith gazed up at the ceiling through the darkness of the early morning hours. She didn't usually wake up this early. It was nearing six o'clock but she'd awoken a short time ago and had as yet been unable to return to sleep. The bed was firmer than she preferred and the room was too hot.
Fuck, She moaned silently. I've been around B and Dawn so fuckin' long that I'm even whinin' in my head.
Her thoughts drifted off track as another wakeup came to mind. A sad smile formed.
It was the morning after their sleepover. She had been floating in a comfortable haze, halfway between waking and sleeping. She'd tightened her grip and pulled the slight source of warmth half-draped over her closer. A shrill objection rang out just moments before four sets of claws dug into her calf, tearing her from her sleep. It was only Buffy's swift reaction that kept her from tossing the hapless kitten across the room before she could grasp what was happening.
"Fuck, that hurt," She'd muttered as Buffy reached down to pry Cookie's claws away from her skin.
She'd settled back down on the pullout, her breathing slightly elevated. Her heartbeat slowed and her breathing finally settled. It was then that she'd realized Buffy was still cuddling against her side. She'd opened her eyes to glare down at the silently giggling Slayer.
"It ain't funny," She muttered hoarsely.
"Sure it is," The blonde countered. "You'd be laughing your ass off it were me."
"That's different," She'd snickered.
Buffy'd lifted a challenging eyebrow and asked, "How so?"
"That's you, not me," Faith had answered, smirking.
Buffy had simply rolled her eyes in response. Then they'd laid there quietly for a short while, Faith holding Buffy and Cookie curled up in the tangle of their legs. She'd looked down curiously when she'd felt Buffy shift to burry her face in her neck. A hot tear hit her skin and she'd been about to question it when Buffy suddenly spoke.
"Last night I told Dawn and Willow about what happened with Satsu." She paused and then continued brokenly, "But I didn't tell them everything. I didn't want their pity."
"You don't gotta tell me anything," Faith had assured her in the silence that followed.
"I know, but I want to," Buffy'd admitted. "I wasn't kidding when I told you that I want to get to know you, and I want to let you get to know me too."
"Aight," The brunette had replied softly. "You can tell me whatever you want."
"I know I keep saying that Satsu left me," She had begun hesitantly. "I guess it's not really the way it happened, but that's the way it feels." She shook her head and continued, "Anyway, she called sometime later after she'd left, I think it was around three, but I'm not sure.
"At first she tried to guilt me into answering the phone by begging, using our relationship mostly. Then she tried to piss me off, trying to goad me into it by describing the affair," Buffy choked out, wincing at the memory.
Faith had begun kneading Buffy's tensed back. It was an attempt to both comfort Buffy and to sooth the anger boiling in Faith's blood. It wasn't as successful as she'd have liked, but apparently it was enough to hide just how much she wanted to rip Satsu's heart out. Faith had tightened her grip on Buffy's waist unconsciously as the blonde continued.
"I guess she ran out of patience, `cause she finally just said she wanted a divorce." Buffy'd lifted up to look at Faith, tears staining her cheeks. "It feels like she left me `cause as pathetic as it sounds, I think I would've taken her back if she'd just given me time."
Faith was pulled from the memory as a sound reached her. Reflexively, she retrieved one of her knives from under her pillow. She silently slid it from the sheath, and then forced her body to relax as she listened to the footsteps coming up the stairs. Recognizing the tread, she stowed the knife and then she shifted to get out of bed.
She moved to stand at the side of the door and waited in the dark room, her eyes flicking briefly to Shawna's sleeping figure. She smirked in anticipation. Theirs being the first room on this level, it wasn't long before the footsteps approached the door. An abrupt rap of knuckles on the door was all the warning she had before the door swung open.
Aaron entered the room and then jumped as the door swung shut behind him. Something slammed into him and he felt the air rush out of him as he was shoved back against the door. An arm pressed against his throat, cutting off the air as a slender form pinned him in place. The light flicked on and he found himself looking into Faith's snarling countenance.
She studied him for a moment, a smile playing at the corners of her lips at the fear she saw in his wide brown eyes. Then she got in his face, sneering. Her voice was a guttural whisper when she spoke.
"You will learn to respect our privacy if it's the last motherfuckin' thing ya do. Ya get me?"
His face was turning an unhealthy scarlet shade. She ignored Shawna's movements behind her as the younger Slayer got out of bed. All her attention was on the bastard before her. She reluctantly eased up on the pressure at his throat so he could answer.
A couple of moments passed as he gasped for breath. Then she smacked him upside the head to regain his attention. As their eyes met, she repeated her question.
"Do you fuckin' get me?"
An outraged expression flooded his face. He opened his mouth, but before he could say a word, she grabbed his jaw and squeezed. She shot him a warning look.
"Think before ya say whatever threat's lingerin' in your pea-brain ya uptight son of a bitch."
Faith wondered if he was stupid enough to ignore her threats. She was disturbed to find that she hoped so, though not very surprised. She had to play the part, but it was toying with the darkness that dwelled within every Slayer. It was a dangerous game, one she'd played before and she'd never liked the results of.
"You think you'll get away with this behavior?" Aaron sputtered.
So he really was that stupid. Good. She grabbed him by the throat and slid him up the door until his feet were no longer touching the floor. She could feel his throat convulsing against her hand as he struggled for air. She smiled.
"I will. Because you ain't near the man it'd take to stop me." Her thoughts flickered to Angel and some of her darkness faded.
"Hey, what's going on?" Shawna's voice interrupted from just behind her left shoulder. "Maybe you should back off, Faith."
She'd been amused by the scene before her when she'd first awoken. But it was going a little too far now. As much as she loved seeing him get his, she couldn't just stand by and do nothing as a human was hurt. It went against everything her instincts were screaming.
She chose to ignore the part of her that was thrilled—that part of her always made Shawna feel a little sick. She eyed Faith warily and put a little more distance between them. The older woman didn't behave like any of the other Slayers. There was something about Faith that screamed that she was something more than her and their teammates, something far more dangerous than they could ever dream of being.
"Nah," Faith said, interrupting Shawna's musings. "I think I need to teach watcher-man here a lesson or two. Don't worry, kid, I won't kill him. I ain't even gonna hurt him too bad."
Yet, She finished silently.
The hands clawing frantically at her arm in an attempt to get free finally succeeded in gaining her attention. She glanced irreverently at the trails of blood trickling from the scratches he'd left behind on her forearm. Then she flicked her gaze back to Aaron's. She shook her head.
"You will learn to respect our privacy," She said in a monotone. "And you will stop actin' like you're our master. The other girls may have accepted bein' your slave, but I won't." She paused and then finished in a snarl, "Now I'll ask ya one more fuckin' time.
"Do ya understand me?"
He gave a miniscule nod of his head, her hand restricting the movement. She eyed him briefly. Then she stepped back and let go, allowing him to collapse to the floor. She watched dispassionately as he sobbed, sucking in air gratefully.
"Good. You ain't gonna like it if I have to repeat myself." She tilted her head and crossed her arms over her chest. "Now get the fuck out of here."
That was all he needed. Still breathing heavily, Aaron scrambled to his feet. He jerked the door open and left, slamming it behind him. The room was left in eerie silence.
Faith turned to look at the younger Slayer. She waited to see if Shawna would say anything. She could see the myriad of emotions clouding her eyes—fear, panic, excitement, fascination. They were typical reactions the other Slayers had to her and Buffy.
Even when they didn't know who the older two women were, their inner Slayers did. Faith wondered if anyone realized how much their instincts resembled that of werewolves. She smiled briefly. If Buffy were their Alpha wolf, then she was sure as fuck the Omega.
"You probably shouldn't have done that," Shawna cautioned as she turned to move towards the closet. "He's just going to make you regret it."
"He ain't got what it takes to do that," Faith replied, smirking.
"If you say so," She muttered.
As her adrenaline began to fade, Faith suddenly asked, "How often does he send you into fights?"
That question had been tickling at the back of her mind since the night before when Diana had doled out their assignments. There was a Council-wide age-limit for Slaying. Slayers under thirteen weren't even supposed to go out on patrol unless it was part of a class lesson. And none of them were allowed to go into a major fight until they reached sixteen.
Shawna turned from pulling on a pair of jeans. She gave Faith a confused look.
"The same as everyone else," She answered with a shrug. "Why?"
"The house leader in Boston said somethin' `bout an age-limit," Faith lied.
"It was probably house-oriented."
Faith only grunted in reply. Oh yeah, Aaron had another lesson on the way all ready. She couldn't wait to give it to him.
Chapter 24: In the Thick of It
The cavern was pure chaos. There hadn't been any live captives. The Slayers were grateful that there'd been more vampires than expected—instead of the fifteen or so vampires, they'd found at least thirty. It meant they didn't have time to focus on the victims who'd died because they hadn't found the vampires out soon enough.
Faith had learned over the years to keep an eye on her surroundings as she fought. It was a survival mechanism that had taken what had felt like forever to master. She'd only managed it once she'd learned to exert some self-control in a fight; which wasn't nearly as easy as it sounds, because her inner Slayer didn't like being controlled—not even by her. She was thankful for it now as she studied the techniques and skill-levels of the others while she watched their backs.
She was pleased to see that Diana's file hadn't lied. She was exceptionally skilled. Her first opponent was taken out within seconds with a swift stake to the heart. The next one was done slower, but with the same clean execution.
Janice, now she was a masterpiece. Faith couldn't help but think that whoever had trained the girl had best be proud of what he'd done. She slipped through the different styles and flavors of martial arts with a fluid grace that could make a master cry. It was beauty incarnate.
A vampire slipped between the brunette and her view of Shawna. It didn't even register that her eyes had been darting back and forth from her observations to the girl since their entrance. An unreasonable anger flared white hot and she snarled, striking out in a reverse roundhouse punch. The crack of his jawbone fracturing could be heard dimly over the din of the fight.
Faith threw several more punches in rapid succession. In a move that caught him off-guard, she hit him once more full-strength and then drew back to launch a kick at him. Her combat boot caught him in the solar plexus and his feet left the ground as he flew back. He crashed into the cavern wall several feet away, his body sliding down to the ground, and didn't move again.
Now her view of Shawna was unrestricted once more. The young dark-haired girl might be wary of what she was, but she knew what to do with it. Of course, that didn't make Faith any happier about there being a barely thirteen year old girl in the thick of a fight. It just reminded her entirely too much of the times when she'd been forced to fend for herself as a child.
The satisfaction of slamming her stake home in another vampire's chest helped get her mind off that track before it could really begin. She shook her head and returned to her previous scrutiny. There was something about Shawna's fighting techniques that appealed to her... a certain controlled violence in it that she found difficult to draw her eyes away from. It was reminiscent of a blend between Buffy's fighting style and her own.
It was almost impossible, but she finally managed to turn her attention to her last survey. She couldn't have contained the wince she gave in reaction if she'd tried. It was obvious that Corrine still held a lot of unresolved issues over her past. Faith's anger surged again as she wondered why they hadn't gotten the girl the help she so obviously needed yet.
She gritted her teeth and put all of her attention back on the fight. Corrine's situation was yet another thing that she would have to address before this was all over. She wouldn't—no, she couldn't, let a Slayer keep going into the thick of it like that. That way lays trouble.
Shawna was... There was no word for how she felt at what she was seeing. She'd thought several times since they'd first met that there was something different about Faith. But seeing her fight confirmed it. All the other Slayers she'd ever met had moved with a superhuman grace—but not Faith, hers was an almost inhuman one.
Every hit, every move was savage, full of a violence that was just barely contained. A primal light lit Faith's eyes. It all spoke to Shawna in ways she didn't understand. She trembled from the tension that was coiled up inside her.
Several times throughout the fight, she'd been distracted from her own opponent by the older Slayer. It wasn't anything sexual. It was something else—something ancient. She jerked her attention away from Faith once again and just barely missed being gutted.
She shook her head in exasperation and maneuvered herself so that Faith wasn't in her line of sight. There would be plenty of time later to ponder the mystery that was her new roomie. It would be a Hell of a lot safer at least. And maybe it would give her something to do that would keep her mind off the adrenaline high aftereffects.
There had been a nagging familiarity that began the moment she'd been introduced to Faith. It was obvious that Diana hadn't met her before. Faith wasn't the type of woman one forgets. But still, it was there and had only intensified the moment Faith had thrown herself into the fight.
Then she'd felt the other Slayer's eyes on her at odd intervals in the fight—felt herself being judged. There was an unmistakable sense of pride that had caught her by surprise, nearly causing her to miss a knife strike from her opponent. She'd just known that it was Faith's approval in her. The thought of it had sent a wave of contentment through her that she didn't understand.
There was something animalistic about Faith. Diana had recognized that right off. Maybe what she was feeling was just her demon essence reacting to whatever made Faith that way. It was something she would have to contemplate later.
It wasn't until Faith threw a double reverse roundhouse that it all fell together. It was true that Slayers had a superhuman grace. But there was another Slayer out there who moved with something inhuman, something primal lurking beneath her skin that occasionally peered out of her eyes. Buffy Summers was the only one Diana had ever seen move like that.
Incidentally, there was one other slayer who could most likely have—and from the rumors, had—taken Buffy in a fight. Coincidentally enough, that Slayer's name was Faith. Diana smirked. That just drew the question of why she was there. Since whatever the reason behind her presence was most likely sanctioned by Rupert Giles, the team leader decided to sit back and enjoy the show.
"You jerk," Buffy huffed as she stalked the vampire. "I just had this manicure done today!"
She ignored the snickers from the two people standing back by the sidewalk. She'd deal with her so-called friends once she'd taken care of this nuisance. They were just asking for it. A broken nail was a very serious offense to her.
She feinted left and then threw a combination of punches at him, alternating right and left handed moves. The last punch caught him in the side and she felt his ribs give beneath her fist. The vampire bent instinctively, wrapping his arm around his ribs and she smirked as she retrieved her stake from her waistband. It was so much fun to play with fledglings.
She lashed out, aiming for his chest. His head jerked up at the movement, but he was too late to stop her. The stake slammed home and his eyes shot open wide just before he turned to dust. She slipped her stake back into her waistband and turned slowly, narrowing her eyes.
"What?" Willow asked innocently.
"I will have my revenge," She promised in a humorously ominous tone.
The blonde rolled her eyes as that set them off in another bout of laughter. And I've missed this, why? She mused sarcastically. Shaking her head, she chuckled under her breath and turned to head to the next cemetery.
This was the first time the three of them had patrolled together in several months. They each had their own responsibilities, both professional and personal. It wasn't often they got the chance to get out together, though there had been more occasions in the past couple of weeks. She winced as that reminder brought other things to mind.
Satsu would be gone as of Wednesday of the following week, six days from now. Giles had made it official that afternoon. She was just relieved that Giles had been right and it didn't seem as if anyone was too upset over it. The last thing she'd needed was more drama.
After the memo had gone out, Willow and Xander had dropped by her office. They'd asked if she wanted to go out on patrol with just them. She'd seen right through it, but gladly agreed if only to get her mind off Satsu. She just wished Faith was there.
Jeez, She snorted internally. She's only been gone a day. Get over it all ready.
The admonition did nothing to lessen the tightness in her chest. She knew what it was, had actually been expecting it. They'd grown close, closer than she'd have ever expected. And she'd never done well with being separated from someone she had feelings for.
She knew she should be using this time to decide what she wanted. Should even be using it contemplate her feelings for Faith. And eventually she would—though she all ready knew what she would come up with. It wasn't as complicated as it might seem.
She wasn't even going to tackle the fact that it was probably too soon to even be thinking about someone else like that. The thing about that was Faith wasn't just anyone. She was her other half, the person Buffy had fought against, fought alongside of for years, and hated more than anyone. And she wasn't stupid—no one could hate someone that much without loving them, too.
She just hadn't been ready to accept it until now. She realized she'd loved Faith long before now, roughness and vulgarity included. It had just taken seeing a whole new side of her along with the old one to make her see it. It didn't take a genius to realize Faith felt something for her as well.
She had no doubt that she was the only one who'd ever seen Faith let down her walls like she had been recently. Sure, Angel had seen Faith break down. But at that moment he'd only seen her as someone helpless, though, while Buffy had been given the chance to see Faith as a woman and a person. And she could privately admit that she felt a little jealous that Angel had seen Faith at her weakest.
The sound of someone screaming broke her out of her thoughts. She threw a look back at her friends and then took off running. She could only hope Faith would call soon. The last thing she needed was for Willow and Xander to recognize her distraction for what it was; she'd never hear the end of their teasing then.
Chapter 25: Lesson #2 – Conduct Unbecoming
They'd missed one last vampire. He got the jump on them just as they exited the cavern. No one had expected it, they'd all been too wrapped up in the post-slay energy. He'd jumped out of the shadows and before they knew it, plunged a knife into Shawna's thigh.
Faith had been the closest. At a sharp cry of pain, she'd jerked her head around to a scene that caused her anger to flare violent and dark. One of the vamp's arms was around Shawna's throat and his other hand still gripped the knife hilt, twisting it slightly. The girl's eyes were wide as she pulled ineffectively at the arm at her throat and her skin had paled considerably as her jaws clenched to prevent any further sounds from escaping.
He was unprepared for what happened next. Then again, most demons weren't prepared for a fully-powered Slayer's attack; there really wasn't a way to do it. An inhuman growl was torn from Faith's chest and before he could react, she'd been on him. She'd wrapped her hand tight around his throat and pulled him bodily away from Shawna.
"Try me on for size," She'd snarled.
It was a short fight. She'd been too angry to really take her time. Several brutal punches had broken most of his ribs and as he knelt in agony on the ground after a kick to the groin, she'd plunged her stake into his heart through his back. It had been satisfyingly violent.
Then she'd quickly set up a tourniquet around Shawna's thigh above the wound using her belt. They'd have to wait until they were at the house to properly tend to it. That was another issue she'd have to address; regulations required all Slayers to be fully trained in first aid and for each patrol to carry a Council-approved kit at all times. The list just kept racking up against Aaron.
Now they were returning to the house. Faith was supporting Shawna on one side and Diana had the other. She'd tried to pick the girl up, only to receive pointed objections. She'd shrugged it off, knowing how she'd have felt in that position and then they'd compromised.
The tension was unbearable and it grew even more so the closer they got to the house, to Aaron. It made Faith angry in a way that so little else did anymore. Slayers were supposed to celebrate, to reaffirm life every time they were given another chance at it. But instead, that prick of a watcher had these girls so anxious that it was making her sick.
Aaron was waiting for them as they entered the house, his posture radiating impatience. Faith's nostrils flared in irritation. She needed, she knew, to calm down, to stop letting the post-slay adrenaline drive her. But that look, that condescending look on his face was fueling her aggression. And she'd never really needed help in that particular department in the first place.
Then his eyes drifted over them and fell on Shawna's wound. Faith could see it coming. She'd been around Wesley Wyndam-Pryce at his worst. She knew the signs of a watcher's lecture well.
"What sort of careless foolishness have you been a part of this time?"
Faith's lips pulled back in a snarl and a low growl erupted from her chest. Aaron's gaze caught hers and he faltered. Right now all she wanted was to take care of Shawna and he was standing in the way of that. Her expression challenged him to continue, to keep trying his luck.
"Now ain't the time, old man. We need to get her stitched up."
"I'm really getting sick of you, you know that? All you ever offer are criticism and complaints. You never try to show us what we're doing wrong, or even offer suggestions for improvement. Are you even capable of doing your job, or is being a complete bastard all you're capable of?"
Faith smirked. She hadn't really had much opportunity to really interact with the kid yet, aside from the few incidents since her arrival. But she was fast becoming fond of her. There was just something so deeply amusing about someone who could take a man apart with mere words.
"As your watcher and guardian it is my place to punish you as I see fit. How you view it is your problem, not mine, Ms. Nocona. As for the disrespect you've just shown me, you've added two more days onto it. You won't be allowed to patrol or train for this entire week."
And just like that, Faith's amusement faded. Her expression hardened, eyes darkening to almost black. Patrol would be one thing, but training? It was bad enough that he had Shawna patrolling, but not allowing her every opportunity to train as well was a death sentence.
Shawna's body was still growing, changing into that of an adult. Add in that she was still adjusting to the power of the Slayer as it increased every year... She needed to be afforded every bit of training she could get just to have any hope of her body being able to cope. What Aaron was doing was unethical and inhumane.
"Yeah, well, fuck you," She heard Shawna snarl.
Then there was shuffling, hurried footsteps coming at the door. Faith crossed to the other side of the hall and took up a similar position near the banister. She watched the door expectantly.
She couldn't help a grim smile as Aaron stumbled from the room. His exit had obviously been powered by a half-strength shove from an angry Slayer. The door slammed shut behind him and he glanced back at it, his expression disbelieving. Then he shook his head and tugged at his sweater, straightening the wrinkled material.
Faith shifted, allowing all traces of her amusement to fall aside. She waited until he looked up. He jumped and she gave him a mocking smile. Then she let her expression go blank.
"Apparently you have issues with respect in all aspects, not just our fuckin' privacy."
"That conversation was between me and Shawna," He blustered. "It has nothing to do with you."
"Oh, it has absolutely everything to do with me," She drawled, shoving off from the wall. "'Cause I just know that you think you're gonna be able to pull that shit with me."
"As your watcher it is my place," He huffed, putting his hands on his hips.
"You seem to have gotten your wires crossed," She replied, closing in on him. "There's a difference between a watcher and a warden. I know it's confusin' `cause they start with the same letter, but there's a world of a fuckin' difference."
She refrained from commenting that she knew the differences from personal experience. Too many hints and he'd realize who he was dealing with; watchers weren't hired for their stupidity after all, even if half the old Council were ignorant in some way. And she was beginning to enjoy this. She didn't want him to know a snake was about to bite until the asp sunk her fangs into him.
"I am merely doing my job," Aaron argued. "Are you suggesting that I should let her continue with the sort of recklessness that got her injured tonight?"
He stepped back from the approaching Slayer. His question seemed to have incensed her further. He watched her anxiously. He wasn't sure what it was about her, but she frightened him. She was so much more dangerous than any of his other Slayers could hope to be.
She made him think of what he'd heard about Slayers of old. He swallowed nervously. He didn't know how, but he would have to find another way to gain control over this Slayer. It was obvious that his usual tactics weren't going to work on her.
He wondered what made her so different. He wanted to know what it was that made her seem so inhuman, what fueled the darkness in her eyes. But part of him, something deep inside, told him he didn't want to know. It recoiled in terror every time she got close.
His back hit the wall but Faith kept moving. She crowded into his personal space like she had earlier that morning. He made as if to squirm away and she put a hand to his chest, a casual display of strength keeping him in place. Her eyes locked with his again, anger burning bright.
"If you wanted to prevent carelessness, you'd tell her what went wrong. You'd show her how to keep it from happenin' again," She hissed. "You wouldn't punish her for somethin' that could've happened to anyone. You don't even know what happened, `cause you ain't been debriefed yet."
He opened his mouth as if to protest and she gestured sharply, cutting him off. She didn't want to hear his voice. It was a struggle to keep from applying enough pressure to his chest to make it hurt as it was. She gave a look of disgust that, unknown to him, was directed mostly at her self.
"You criticize them when you ain't even prepared them to do any better. Any efforts you've made to teach them have been half-hearted at best," She continued speaking, her voice harsh and unrelenting. "You're doin' your damndest to break them, you son of a bitch. You're strippin' those girls of their humanity and their blood's gonna be on your hands."
She steered her mind away from the images that thought brought to mind. She didn't want to think about Allen or Lester. She really didn't want to think of the handful of Slayers that had given her no other course of action than to end their lives in the last decade. All she could think of was that he wasn't going to be the reason she had to do it again.
She shoved him away from her and turned to go back to her room. She stopped just before the door, her hand on the knob. She smiled humorlessly and turned to look at him over her shoulder.
"You step one foot out of line, make one more degradin' comment, continue to disregard us as human, keep treatin' us like we're chattel? And I'm gonna show you what a Slayer really is."
Then she was entering her room, closing the door behind her. She ignored the questioning look from Shawna. Instead she went to her bed and rifled through her jacket pocket until she found what she'd been looking for. Then she went to the window and, completely disregarding the seal around the base and edges of the window, she pushed it up.
It resisted at first, then the seal cracked and the window slid up. She sat down on the frame and took a cigarette from the pack in her hand. She lit it with shaking hands. Her eyes closed with the first inhalation and she bit back a sigh.
She blew out the smoke in frustration. She knew Shawna had heard their confrontation. She knew the other girl had questions. But she was going to make the other girl come to her, because it was time she focused on the real reason she was there.