by KW Jordan
Prologue: My Heart No Longer Beats...
I'm sittin' in the dark in my hotel room. It suits my mood perfectly. I've been hidin' for the past three days and I don't plan on goin' out any time soon.
The curtains are closed 'cause it's still daylight. I find myself missin' the heat of the sun but I can't do anything about it. I smile sadly.
I always knew life was out to fuck me over, but this? This right here's a Slayer's worst nightmare. There ain't a thing worse than this.
I spent the first day taking my anger out on myself. I screamed out my rage, I drank more alcohol than even a Slayer ever could, I busted up the room and I sliced myself up with glass from one of the beer bottles. I sat on the floor for a while and watched the blood run down my arms in rivulets. Then I spent the next two hours in the bathroom pukin' from revulsion at the hunger.
I've gone over the fight so many times, tryin' to find the point where it turned on me. But I've come to the realization that that fight wasn't ever gonna be mine in the end. Dane was stronger, faster, larger, and by far more powerful than me or anything I've ever been up against before.
I can still feel the sensation of that big son of bitch's fangs tearin' into my skin and his arms like steel bands pinning me to him. The coldness that slowly seeped into my limbs is so much a part of me now that I'm beginnin' to forget what the warmth of humanity felt like. I'm just waitin' for the insanity to hit me.
I remember Spike and Angel's stories and mine ain't makin' sense. They woke up with the demon fully in control. My hunger comes and goes and I'm still able to control myself even when it does hit. It is gettin' stronger the longer I go without, though. I just ain't desperate enough to give in yet.
Maybe the Slayer's still in me. It would make sense, I guess. She's as much a demon as the vampire is, right? God help her if she is still in here. I got a feelin' the vampire in me will take deranged pleasure in fuckin' her up if it takes control.
I'm sure the gang knows what's up by now. I wonder how long it'll be 'fore they come after me. I doubt they'll just leave me alone. I'm not even sure I want 'em to leave me alone. I don't want this existence, but I don't wanna die either.
A tear trickles down my cheek. Just when B and I were gettin' to be friends... I'm sure this'll put a stake in it. I laugh scornfully. Yeah, it'll be her stake in me.
A skitter of nervous energy shoots up my spine and I stiffen. The feeling gets even more intense and then there's a knock on the door. I stand and move until I'm behind the door.
I call out tensely, "Yeah?"
A familiar voice answers, "Faith? It's Willow and Kennedy. Can we come in?"
Fuck. Why'd she have to bring Ken? She must be what caused the mini shock therapy session I was just treated to. I consider her question for a second and then shrug.
Maybe if I'm cooperative and shit, they'll just leave me alone. Just like old times, I smirk. I reach out and unlock the door.
"Yeah, c'mon in," I answer.
Ain't a way in Hell I'm steppin' out there in that hallway. This hotel's got more windows than is healthy for me.
The door opens slowly and I'm given my answer. It's obvious by how hesitant they're bein' that they know somethin' is up. I wonder why B didn't come with. I'd think she'd wanna be the one to get the pleasure of stakin' my ass.
Ken comes in first and I watch from behind the door as she glances around. Red comes in after her and I let the door slam shut. I can't help but smirk when they both jump. They spin around to face me and I wave.
"Hey, guys. What's up?"
Ken's eyes flick over me and she moves in front of Red. Her jaw clenches and she says, "You tell me."
Damn. I ain't ever heard that much venom in Ken's voice directed at me. Should've known little sis had it in her though. I think it's a Slayer thing, honestly.
I tilt my head and shrug. "I thought this was my mission."
Ken smirked, "Oh it was. But you aren't exactly her, either, are you?"
I hear Red mumblin' somethin' in another language and I sigh tiredly. "I'm as much Faith now as I was when I kicked your ass at Metal Gear Solid two weeks ago."
"And I'm supposed to just believe you? You're a vampire, Faith."
"So are Angel and Spike, but ain't nobody staked them yet."
"They have souls."
I edge over to my bed and sit down on the edge. "And I'm still a Slayer."
Red's chantin' slows and I glance over to see her lookin' at me with wide eyes. What? I didn't say anything that strange.
"Uh, Ken?" She says hesitantly.
Ken spares her a brief glance, "What's wrong?"
"She isn't lying," She answers slowly.
The confusion in her expression almost makes me laugh. You and me both, Red, I muse.
Ken's face pales and she's lookin' at me in horror. She shakes her head and moans, "Oh, God, Faith, no."
I give her a weak smile and nod. "Yeah, this is all me."
"H—how are you surviving?" She stammers.
My stomach spasms and lets out a grumbling sound. I blush in reflex. Huh, didn't realize a vampire could do that. Well, you learn new things every day.
I choke out, "Truthfully? Not so well."
"What do you mean?" Willow asks.
I let out a puff of air. "I haven't left my room since I stumbled back in here after it happened."
"Can you tell us about it?" Ken asks as she settles on the recliner.
I lower my head and run my hand through my hair. "I tracked Dane down and we fought, but I was losin' before it really began. He was a big son of a bitch, y'know? I couldn't get away from him."
"W—what's it like?"
I give Ken a pained look. "Hell. I think I've figured out why there aren't any written records of Slayers bein' turned."
Red sits down on the arm of Ken's chair. "Why?"
"They probably stake themselves before their watchers can find out," I say flatly.
"Oh," She mumbles.
"Why'd you guys come here?"
"You didn't check in and Giles was worried."
I glance at Ken curiously. "How'd you know somethin' was up with me?"
Her gaze falls to the floor and she says hoarsely, "Something felt wrong the closer we got to this hotel and when we got in here, you just felt wrong."
I nod. "Does B know somethin' is up?"
"No," Red answers.
"Giles figured you were just playing hooky for a few days," She answers sheepishly.
I grin sadly. "Guess G-man knows me better than I thought."
"Yeah," She mumbles with a lost look in her eyes.
My smile fades as I realize what she's thinkin' about. "I don't want B to know yet."
Her head jerks up. "What? Why?"
"I ain't stickin' around."
"Why? You don't have to go."
I slump back against the wall by the bed. I guess it's time for some truths. I've realized a few things since Ken entered the room; none of 'em good.
"I can't stay. I just don't feel right inside. My instincts are yellin' at me to get away and I have to go with that 'til I understand what's goin' on."
Ken nods. I think she really does get it. "What are we supposed to tell everyone?"
"Tell 'em whatever you want. Just give me a couple days before you do."
Chapter One: But Still It Betrays Me
I feel her in the room before I turn the light on. It's so different than when I was just a Slayer. It ain't disturbin', but it ain't exactly pleasant either. I know it's her 'cause none of the others would have the balls to come here.
I flick the switch and the dim light flickers on. My apartment's in the basement of an abandoned house. I hadn't wanted any attention and this place was nasty when I first bought it and the neighborhood even nastier so I'd figured they wouldn't look for me here. I took the time to take out the neighborhood trash; dusted some vamps, cleared out some sick sons of bitches that humanity ain't gonna miss, and here I am.
Unfortunately, vamps and demons start talkin' when their favorite hangouts get cleaned out. Before long, I caught wind of a rumor that two vamps were in the area lookin' for me. One of 'em was blonde and the other was a brunette. I knew who it was the moment I heard.
I tracked 'em down and beat 'em to within inches of their second deaths. I told 'em if they came here again I'd stake 'em, no questions asked. I was out of the business and I wanted to be left alone. I all ready paid my debts with my life and I don't owe any-fuckin'-body a single motherfuckin' thing – not the Powers, not Buffy, nobody.
I don't even have half a clue as to why she's here. I've stayed as far away from anything Slayer related as I can get. I only slay when I have to and I don't socialize. It's just better that way when you're in my position. Demons hate me 'cause I tend to get stab happy, I get twitchy around some humans, and I get paranoid around Slayers.
I toss my blue jean jacket on the leather couch and saunter across the room to the kitchen without a word or a glance in her direction. I know my silence is drivin' her crazy but that's what I live to do, so to speak. I open the fridge door and pull out the metal container I keep inside.
I grab my favorite mug from the rack above the coffee maker and thump it onto the counter. I twist the cap on the metal container to the side and pour the crimson liquid into the mug. I set it in the microwave to heat and return the container to the fridge. I don't even turn to look at her until I've gotten it fixed the way I like it.
My gaze falls on her and I take a sec to study her. She looks good. Her blonde hair's up in a bun and a tight white tank top clings to her breasts. Her faded and strategically ripped jeans look like they were painted on.
Finally, I clear my throat and ask, "What are you doin' here?"
"I think you know."
I grin in response to her answer. She sucks in a sharp breath and my grin widens. She must not have been as prepared to see me like this as she thought. I trail my tongue over the tips of my fangs and shrug.
"Needed to see me that bad, did ya?"
"Cut the crap, Faith."
I shake my head and laugh, "Know it probably pisses ya off, B. But I really ain't got a clue 'bout why you're here. Wanna shed some light on it?"
"No, but I might want to shed some light on you."
I sip from the mug, ignorin' the look of disgust she's givin' me. Come on! She used to kiss Angel and Spike for God's sake. She even let 'em pop her cork. Why's she actin' like it's so fuckin' nasty now?"
"Get over yourself, B. I ain't been in the game for a while now. I have no reason to know anything about what's goin' down with you or the rest of your little misfits."
I see a flicker of doubt in her eyes and she sighs. Her shoulders slump and she leans forward in her seat. She lets her head drop and sighs as she props her elbows on her knees.
"Sorry, it's just been really rough lately."
I've just realized somethin' that's kinda makin' me wanna throw myself out the door into the dawn light. She still gets under my skin. With just the slightest look, the gentlest touch, the softest words, I'm hers for the takin'. I stick my mouth back on my mug and chug from it to keep from sayin' anything I'll regret.
I remember how badly I always wanted to affect her the same way she did me. I used to try to get her to smile 'cause I couldn't stand to see her sad. I'd make her laugh by doin' the stupidest shit I could think of. I did things I never would've just because she wanted me to. Goin' to the mall with the Scooby Gang, drinkin' fruity drinks I couldn't stand, puttin' out cigarettes before I was through with 'em, droppin' hotties 'fore they could even get a taste—all 'cause she wanted me to.
I loved her to the point of my own detriment at one time. I can see now that ain't much changed in the four years since I've seen her. My heart no longer beats, but still it betrays me. The irony nearly chokes me as I bow to my heart.
"What's goin' down that has you breakin' and enterin'?"
Her jaw works as she straightens and shifts in the chair. Her voice is hoarse when she speaks, "Someone is killing Slayers. In the last three weeks nine Slayers have turned up drained and mutilated."
I stiffen. I think I'm startin' to see why she's here a whole lot clearer and I really, really don't like it. I glare at her.
"It ain't me, if that's what ya thinkin'. I ain't left this little backwater town since I got here."
"Faith, don't get defensive."
I laugh humorlessly, "Don't get defensive? You break into my crib, insinuate I'm offin' your girls, and you don't want me to get defensive? Shit, B. You've flipped your fuckin' lid, ain't ya?"
Buffy stands to try to approach me and I take a step back. She stops and lets out an explosive breath.
"Why do things always get so out of hand with us?"
I smirk, "'Cause one or the both of us is always doin' somethin' stupid."
"I didn't come here to fight, Faith."
"That ain't what it's been soundin' like, B."
She returns to her seat and buries her face in her hands. Her voice comes out muffled, "I just thought you'd have heard something. I didn't know you'd completely dropped out of the slaying business, Faith."
I drain my mug and rinse it out at the sink before I finally circle the breakfast bar to go return to the livin' room. I sit across from her on the couch and cross my legs at the ankles.
"So you expect me to believe that ya came all the way out here on the off-chance that I might know somethin'?"
"Yes?" She squeaks and her hands fall back into her lap.
I see the way her eyes are flickin' around and I laugh. "Lyin' ain't gonna get ya very far, B."
She sighs and her shoulders slump. She quietly replies, "I'm not really sure why I came. I just... he told me where you were and I had to."
That sounds closer to the truth, at least. I shake my head. "Which one of 'em spilled the beans? Was it soul-boy or little Willy?"
She coughs in surprise, "What? It ain't that lit—" She cuts herself off as she blinks and shakes her head rapidly. "Forget I said anything."
I lean forward with a smirk, "No, please, go ahead and finish what you were gonna say. I'm sure it was gonna be interestin' as fuck."
Oh, that's too good. It's been too long since I've seen her turn that shade of red. Fuck, it's just been too long since I've seen her, period.
She glares at me, "So not the point. And I refuse to add to your perversion."
"Awww, but, B, you're takin' all the fun out of it."
She rolls her eyes and asks, "Why do you wanna know which one of them told me?"
I shrug, "Just call me Curious George."
She takes a breath and slowly releases it. She nods as if making a decision and says, "It was Spike."
I lift an eyebrow. She gave that answer just a little easier than I would've expected.
"What'd he tell ya?"
She leans back in the chair. "He, uh, he told me about the fight. He actually said you had become a better fighter than you ever were, basically," She smiles briefly at me.
The smile fades and her gaze drops to the floor. "He also told me about what you'd said about how you'd... you'd paid all your debts with your life," Her voice falters.
I nod. "I was bein' honest."
"Yeah," She murmurs and her gaze lifts to mine again.
Oh, fuck. I know why she's here and Goddamn me, Goddamn me... I know what my answer will be. It'll be the same thing it always has been when she needed me.
I couldn't live with myself if I gave any other.
Chapter Two: Vampire, Interrupted
She hasn't asked yet. She just changed the subject and started an impressive babble-thon that would make Red proud and hasn't shut up yet. Her anxiety is obvious from where I'm sittin'. God, it must be pissin' her off somethin' awful to have to come ask me for help.
I don't doubt that her first reaction to learnin' where I was at was to come after me. We're drawn to each other like moths to a flame and neither of us can resist it for long. But I knew when she told me that she'd just had to come that it wasn't her only reason for bein' here. She can't lie for shit to me and she never really could unless I was too involved in whatever was happenin' to pay attention to her signals.
I'm content for now to just sit here quietly, but eventually we will have to get to the point of her visit. I have to sleep sometime and unfortunately, daytime's when I'm usually tired. It's a problem we vampires tend to have along with a severe allergy to sunlight.
She's insistent about catchin' me up on everything that's gone down with the Scooby Gang. Well, almost everything. There's been absolutely no mention of her personal life. Though she's made sure that I now know Giles has married some chick named Olivia, Red and Ken are married, and Xander's datin' a Slayer named Renee. She even told me about this guy named Connor that Dawn's been seein'.
I'm not so sure that I should complain about the lack of info on her personal life, though. Maybe I should just count my blessings and leave it at that 'cause I really don't wanna hear about her latest boy-toy. No, I'd rather listen to her go on and on about everyone else in Cali. Fuck, she's cute.
I'm startin' to make myself sick with as often as that statement keeps crossin' my mind. Has it just been so long since I've been in the presence of another bein' for an extended amount of time that my brain's just gone to mush? There's somethin' really messed up about that.
"Are you even listening to me, Faith?"
Huh? I jerk my head up and bite back a smirk at the pout she's givin' me.
"Yeah, 'course I am, B."
"Are you sure? 'Cause it kind of looked like you were drifting there."
"Jesus," I mutter in exasperation. "Yes, I was listenin' to ya, B. Ya were tellin' me 'bout ya new crib out in Cali. You just said somethin' 'bout your new puppy goin' ape-shit and tearin' your covers to shreds."
"Oh," She blinked. "I guess you were listening."
Not really, but she doesn't need to know that. I just tuned in long enough to figure out what she was talkin' about and then went back to my thoughts. What can I say? I've got mad skills, yo.
"Yup," I nod in agreement.
"So we bought the new linens..."
And she's off again. Why does she think I wanna know any of this? I didn't when I was alive. I sure as fuck don't now.
Why haven't I shut her up yet? I must've lost my fuckin' mind 'cause I think I've actually missed her voice. A low, aggravated growl escapes without my permission.
She blinks at me in surprise and then asks, "Are you okay?"
I give her a weak smile. "Yeah, I'm just fuckin' peachy. So you were sayin' 'bout the paint job?"
Don't need her askin' what it was all about so maybe a subject change will help. Well, miracle of miracles, it did. Usually she's as persistent as fuck when she wants somethin'.
Oh Jesus fuckin' Christ, Mary and Joseph she's whacked in the head. It's almost noon, for God's sake. Hello? Vampire, here—I'm supposed to be asleep right now!
How did Angel and Spike put up with her? Oh wait, I know the answer to that. Forget I even asked. I know how. I can't just tell her to go away, 'cause then she'll give me that wounded look and I'll cave faster than anything. Fuck.
I yawn, my mouth openin' wide enough that I'm sure she can see my tonsils. My jaw pops and I let out a sigh as I close my mouth with a clack of my teeth. I don't get why my body still functions almost normally, with the exception of a heartbeat and normal blood flow. I still get the usual urges, like breathing, eating, sleeping, and pretty often, I get horny and wanna fuck too.
Somethin' is missin' and it takes me a minute to realize what it is. I blink and look at B. She's just sittin' there starin' at me quietly.
She gives me a guilty look. "Sorry, I didn't realize how late it was getting. Should I go now?"
Yes! My mind screams. No, no, can't tell her that. I slump back against the couch and give her a reassurin' smile.
"Nah, that's aight, B."
She gives me a wry smile. "No, it's not. But that's fine. I'll just come back later tonight."
"Wait, B. Why don't you just go ahead and tell me why you're really here?"
She lets out a shuddering breath and her smile fades. "You know why I'm here, Faith."
I shrug, "Maybe, maybe not. We won't know for sure 'til ya ask."
No way am I gonna make this easy on her. She's comin' in here, interruptin' my life. I wouldn't be me if I didn't give her a hard time for that.
She gazes at me in silence for a long time. I guess she's tryin' to decide if it's worth it or not. Her shoulders slump and I grin inwardly.
"We need your help," She says hoarsely.
"What can I do that you can't get done?"
She rubs her hands over her thighs and leans forward again. "We've learned that there's an army of demons and vamps forming a new community. The ones we've interrogated tell us it's pretty sophisticated and organized. All they can tell us about the leader is that he's vicious and that most of the local vamps steer clear of him. We haven't been able to locate their hideout yet."
I nod, "Aight, and that involves me, how?"
She sighs, "Even when we do find it, I don't want to go in completely unprepared. We need to know what to expect, and none of my people would last long in that environment. The moment a vampire catches scent of them, it'll be chow time."
"What about Red's mojo? Couldn't she do anything to help?"
"We have reason to believe they have a warlock working for them. It would be too much of a risk."
"And the reason you ain't usin' Angel or Spike on this?"
She bites her bottom lip and then releases it. Her eyes peer at me from under long, thick blonde lashes and she asks softly, "Why are you being so defensive, Faith? I thought you would help."
"I ain't sayin' that I won't. I'm just tryin' to figure out what the sitch is, B. Now answer the fuckin' question."
Her jaw clenches and she growls, "Fine. They're too well known. It wouldn't take long before some vampire with half a brain recognized either of them."
I nod. That I can buy. Most vampires have at least a rudimentary knowledge of Angelus and William the loody.
"What does this army have to do with Slayers bein' killed?"
The golden flecks in her hazel eyes flare with anger when she answers, "We think they're being used for initiations."
Now it's my turn to grind my teeth. I may technically not be one any more, but just the thought of it still pisses me off like you wouldn't believe. I blow out a harsh breath.
"So you need me to do what?"
She hesitates and then says coolly, "We need you to help us locate their base and infiltrate them. I don't know how long you'll have to go undercover, or what you might have to do, but it has to be done in order to prevent unnecessary bloodshed."
She's willin' to let me do this alone? I wouldn't have thought she'd trust me enough, but there hasn't been a single mention of a team, a partner, or anything. Maybe she sees just how much of a liability anyone else would be for me in the situation she's describin'.
But, first thing's first. "I don't know if that's such a good idea, B."
She looks at me, startled, "Why?"
"They're gonna expect things of me you ain't gonna approve," I can hear the edge in my tone. I'm surprised by her answer though.
Steel seeps into her voice, "Whatever it takes, Faith."
I can feel the shift of my features and I peer at her through eyes narrowed by the ridges and angles that have formed. She sucks in a breath and I smirk.
"Remember you said that," I snarl.