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Chapter Sixteen

"You sure about this Faith?"

I give Xander a nod and a pat on the back as we walk down the hall together. Our feet are quiet as we walk and there's an energy between us that almost makes the surrounding air wave. Shapershifter energy. I let my eyes drift close as we pad along. I'm pretty sure that Xander wouldn't let me run in to a wall or anything. I hope anyway.

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure about this." He gives me a look and I grin at him. "Don't worry so much boyo. Ama is a good friend, and the wolves are just as invested in this as we are. What do you think is gonna happen to the rest of this city when Giles is done playin' games?" He pales a little at that.

Yeah. The rest of the town is fucked if we don't take this stand right here and right now. It's not just the pack of werewolves that have made this place their home either, it's the people that live here. The innocents. Okay he knows and I know that I was never a huge fan of the innocent. Maybe its jealousy ya know? I envied them their innocence. But I can't ignore them anymore. I can't pretend that I'm not responsible for the innocent people that live here.

I brought a demon in to this city. A demon I'm not so sure I can take down if things go wrong. An' here I am, sittin' at the right hand of said demon, about to wage war on the only thing that made any sense to me. I must be outta my fuckin' mind. No wonder Xander is askin' if I'm sure about this.

"I get the extreme imminence of this threat Faith but while they're fighting Slayers are they going to be careful with them? Because even if this is the wrong fight to be in, they're still the good guys." Yeah.

At the end of the fuckin' day the Slayers are still the heroes and me an' B an' all of ours are the villains. It's not all black and white anymore, there are shades of gray here but we're too dark ta be on the other side even if we aren't as dark as Giles seems to think we are. I raise my brows as I glance at Xander and sigh. "You're gonna suggest somethin' that is gonna get me in trouble aren't you?"

Xander gives me a big happy grin an' I shake my head before pushin' in the door to Buffy's little throne room. She calls it her parlor. It has one big chair and a few little stools. That's a throne room if ya ask me. B's head turns towards us before she finishes talking to Gus.

"...everyone fights Gus. This is their home too and if they want to keep it they'll defend it." I watch the demon dip his head in a nod as she continues on. "Seal the dungeons, we wouldn't want our little Slayer friends to get the wrong idea of what goes on in there."

Yeah. Heh. Pleasure but half of newbies wouldn't understand that if they saw what those rooms have in 'em. The other half would probably freak out. Well. Maybe not. All Slayers have needs. I drop in to Buffy's lap and give her nose a little nip.

"Xander has an idea." The second it's out of my mouth he makes a squeak of protest. I hope he didn't think I was gonna be the one to take the hit on this. It's his idea, whatever it is. He can deal with the consequences.

"Oh yeah?"

Her eyes are all for me even if she's asking him to spit it out already. I like that.

"I was thinking maybe I should go to the club to make sure everything goes smoothly there. No unnecessary bloodshed you know. Slayers get cranky when you try to kill them." She lifts her gaze from me to watch Xander rock back on his heels a few times.


I blink, cast Xander a glance then shrug. Hey if she's up for it who am I to argue?


"Sure. You're a big boy and if the wolves get out of control it'll make this little stand pretty damn pointless. We are the moderately good guys here." Sure. If she says so. "Take Denna with you." Now that does make me grunt a little. I don't think Denna should leave but she's B's girl.

"You think she'll be safe with me?"

"If she's not..." The silence is significant enough for Xander to nod and turn on a heel. I dunno if she'd kill him if anything happened to Denna but she'd hurt him bad. Real bad. I hope he takes that threat to heart. "So. You okay with all of this?" Me?

"It's gotta be this way B. Am I happy about it? Nah. But I made my choice, and this is the side I fall on."

"Because it's the bad guy side?"

Is it? Are we really the bad guys here? Sure we dress in black, wear the leather, share our bed, take blood, money and power if we can find. But we never hurt someone that can't take care of themselves. Never let the demons take over the night and our streets. We keep it all balanced and checked. So are we the bad guys?

"No. 'Cause you're on this side. Vampire or not you'll never really be a bad guy B."

"That's only because you chained me to a soul." The hint of anger in her voice makes me shiver a little. I like it when she gets all pissy with me.

"Even if I hadn't. You fought that demon in you every second you fed on me that first time. You just weren't strong enough then to resist the hunger. But you are now. And you would, 'cause deep down in your guts you'll always be a Slayer. You'll always be Buffy."

Her head cants to the side as she considers all that. "I tortured you for keeping me in that cage."

Yeah. So? I had her locked in a cage in the first place. I'd say turnabout is fair play or whatever.  "And?"

"Am I still who you think I am?"

"Wha? Because ya made me want ya so bad my teeth fuckin' hurt? Because ya made me see you how you are an' not how I wanted ta see you? No B. You didn't torture me, that was just your own special brand of the truth." Her green eyes close and she takes a deep breath she doesn't even need.

"I love you."

I know it. But the fact that I know it doesn't stop me from grinnin' my ass off. Her lips brush over mine in a slow cool kiss. I'd take it further but we'd never have time to finish anything fun. Not with Satsu so close to us already. I start to turn my head in the direction of booted steps coming at us at a fast clip but Buffy holds my face in her hands, keeping my attention on her as we share breath. The door thunders open and I pull back reluctantly. Buffy follows me back before letting me go and giving the Slayers over my shoulder, a look of supreme annoyance.

"Doesn't anyone know how to knock anymore?" I flick my eyes to the startled Slayers then back to Buffy at her outraged query. "Well???"

"I don't think they expected ta find us suckin' face B. They're a little shocked. Give 'em a minute."

She snorts daintily and shoves me outta her lap. If it weren't for my reflexes that could have been an ugly fall. I manage to land in a low crouch near Buffy's feet. Somehow I think that was intentional on her part.

"Please. If anyone is surprised by us kissing they must be new." Yeah. I gotta agree with that one. I scan the faces and note the pairs of eyes that won't quite lift to mine. More than a few of them don't know what they're doing here. That's good. Advantage us. Bodies shift and sidle and a space opens up at the front. Satsu pours out of the space to stand in front of Buffy with a crossbow. A perfectly aimed crossbow.

"I'm sorry Buffy." The kid doesn't even blink. She just pulls the trigger, even as the first tear rolls down her cheek. You'd think at this range she'd have B pegged but...Buffy ain't no ordinary vamp. She doesn't catch the bolt. She just avoids it with a smooth twist of her body.

"For trying to kill me? Or for falling in love with me in the first place? Or because I never loved you back?"

That's harsh and I almost feel for the kid. Almost. But the truth of the matter is that she's in need of a smackdown.  Bodies shift uncertainly, fanning out to circle the three of us. Looks like it's gonna be an old fashioned school yard beat down. A younger Slayer starts to step outta the circle but I push her back in to place with a hand on her chest. We lock eyes for a second, fighting for dominance but she drops her gaze, lettin' her shoulders slump. See? It didn't hafta get ugly. Not yet anyway.

"You're a monster."

"Yes." I snicker and bite my lip at that. "So what's your point?" Yeah she's a vampire so fuckin' what?

"My point, Buffy, is that you're not one of us. And if you're not one of us then you're one of them." Oh it's breakin' her heart to say all this. And everyone of us in the room can feel it. I'm not talkin' about a sympathetic thing. Like tellin' someone you understand when ya don't. We fuckin' feel her falling apart on the inside.

Buffy's head goes to the side as she watches Satsu force her face in to blankness. It never makes it to those haunted eyes and for a split second I think she might waver. But she doesn't. She pulls the trigger again, lettin' another bolt fly loose with blinding speed. You'd think it'd be wild but her aim is true and the arrow imbeds itself in the bookcase behind me. I stare at it for a good long second before I let my muscles unkink slowly, rising from my loose crouch to face her eye to eye.

"That one was free kiddo. The next one will cost ya."

"The next one won't miss." She's not lyin'. She's gonna kill me if she can. I let my lips curl in a grin, hands loose at my sides. Satsu doesn't even notice the build up of power under the surface. She's too hurt, too broken, too distracted to see what's in front of her fuckin' face. And then it hits me. We're one short of a party here.

"If ya wanted us dead, we'd be bleedin' already. You're just stallin' until you get the signal."

Pained eyes go cold on us as the truth settles over us. Buffy doesn't have to turn to let me know her attention is on me. I can feel the way the cool air of the grave caresses my skin that she's thinking things just for me. "I'm already on it B. You stay and catch up with your pals."

I back up slowly not really wanting to leave Buffy alone in a room full of Slayers but I think she's got it covered for now. Once I'm out of the room I can tell other things are happening around us but nothing so big and so bad that I need to deal with it. No...it all sounds kinda half hearted ya know? I let the loudest fight lead my steps an' by the time I can tell it's Giles I'm flat out running.

He's using magic and it's making my skin prickle as lower my shoulder and use it to barrel in to the door. The wood gives under me and crashes open as I practically fall right on top of ole G. I skid to a stop just as he takes a quick hop backward, hand up and open like he's ready to toss that big shiny ball of power at me. "Easy old man. I'm not really here for a fight."

Giles gives me a look a pure hate and raises his arm in a pitch that would make Fabio Castro proud. I'm barely quick enough to duck an' roll out of the way. Motherfucker. Before I can get my bearings another hot ball of energy streaks by me, this time leaving my skin a rush of stinging prickles. Too close. Way too close. I break to the left and duck down behind a marble statue. So much pebbly dust rains down on me as it takes the hit meant for me. "YOU LET HER DIE!!!"

I'm guessing this is gonna be one of those moments where talkin' is not worth the breath. I peek around the statue tryin' to keep Giles in sight. He ducks down, forcing me to put more of my body in the open. I'm not that stupid. I drop to my belly and scuttle across the room to better cover. Another streak, golden this time and the plush chair in the corner goes up in flames. I sigh and wish I had thought to bring a cigarette. "Yeah but I brought her back. Doesn't that earn me any points?" I poke my head out only to have ta pull it back as the corner of the wall I'm behind gets singed. Shit.

"This isn't a joke! Buffy is dead and it's all your fault Faith. You've always wanted this and now you've gotten it. You're the elder Slayer now but I'll be damned if I let you have this organization. I'll kill you before I let you defile it like you did Buffy."

Last I saw B, was the one doin' all the defilin' and it was fuckin' hot too. I spare a second to let the lust ride through me before I push it away for somethin' a lil more practical. Like rage. I let that anger spill from him and I suck it all up like water. I take it and I make it mine because the truth is I have a damn good reason ta be pissed the fuck off. Everyone is so happy ta blame me, blame vamps, blame each other but not one of them is ready ta blame themselves. I push off from the wall and face Giles squarely.

"Yeah G. She's dead. And you're almost right. I did want her. Always. But I never would have let her kill herself. I would have brought her back from that edge kickin' an' fuckin' screaming but I wouldn't have let her walk out the door that night."

Electricity hits me square in the gut and I double over but it doesn't bring me down. I grunt but force myself back to standing. "What's the matter Giles? Too much truth for ya?" He hits me with magic again but it's less forceful this time and it gives me my advantage. "You knew when she made up her mind to take this mission. You fuckin' knew it and you let her go. So who really killed your baby girl huh?"

His hand comes up, cracklin' and sizzling with power but he never lets it go. He grips his fist tighter, making it buzz louder and harsher than before. "I didn't know!" Bullshit. Bullfuckin'shit. He knew and the way he's standin' there lookin' at me lets me know that he can't hide from the truth anymore. "I didn't know..." Softer now. Still the same stupid song though. I take a step forward as his hand comes down a bit.

"You knew. You fucking knew it Giles. She was dying inside and you didn't even try."

"We tried! We all tried..."

His burst of anger just comes out tired and sad and I shout him down with no regret.

"YA DIDN'T TRY HARD ENOUGH!" It's loud enough to come out half roaring howl and it hurts. It hurts down to my fuckin' bones. It hurts because I know deep down, I blame him for Buffy bitin' the big one. I blame him because he kept us apart even when he knew she needed me. Finally some of my anger leaks back at him and he raises his head defiantly.

"You weren't there. You have no right. NO RIGHT."

Yeah I wasn't there but that wasn't my bad. I forgot to ask questions, forgot to listen to the silence and catch the broken words that would have told me shit was wrong. "You could have called. Fuck. Giles ya had me runnin' all over the fucking place and you could have said she needed me. I would have been there!"

I'm so ready for the burst of magic that I never realize his fist is too close and too fast to stop. It rocks my head back on my neck but I don't fall. I stagger a bit and consider takin' a swing right back at him but he's ready for me. It's too soon. Giles' breath is hot with alcohol and hate when he body checks me in to the wall and pins me there. "I couldn't! You had a destiny...she had to find her way...she had to..."

Well fuck me. I know what to do if someone's tryin' ta punch my face in, hell I even know what to do when they're not sure they wanna punch my face in. But this. He's just cryin' on me and I don't know what to do or how to make it right. So I push him back until he topples over on to the cold ground and I crouch over him with a snarl. So close. I could bite him, rip him up and feed on his blood right now.

"She didn't have to be alone. You chose that for her."
The council chose that for us a long time ago. I guess I always thought he was better than that. Better than them. Always sucks to find out how wrong you are. I watch Giles curl up on his side, rocking himself slightly. Pathetic.

"She's gone and it's my fault Faith. She's gone."

Ya damn right it's your fault. But what am I gonna do? Yell it at him again? I think he gets it. He's gonna grieve for a long time because he can't let it go. But I'm not his therapist an' I'm sure as fuck not his priest, he can cry on his own dime. I reach down and haul him up to his feet. His knees almost go out on him but I yank him up harder to keep him standing. Giles tries to put up a feeble fight but I drag him from the front of his shirt down the hall.

"Where are we going? Faith...what are you...let go of me."

I growl back at him and it gets him to shut his mouth. He swallows hard and I push him through the doorway to Buffy's throne room. As I expected she's fine. Hell she's better than fine. She's practically dry humping Satsu on the floor. I give a knocked out Slayer a nudge with my booted toe and she grunts. Okay so no one's dead. That's a good thing.

"Hey B. What'cha doing?"

She looks up at me, the tip of her tongue still sliding down Satsu's neck as the girl whimpers and tries not to cry.

"Getting hungry Faith." Uh huh. She grinds down on Satsu again but when I hold my hand out for her, Buffy gets up and curls up against my side. "I was good. I didn't even break the skin."

"That's my girl." I give her a wink and look down at Satsu before jerk my head at Giles. "Big Poppa here has some guilt B. I'm thinkin' you should do that thing you do with your mouth."

She opens said mouth and I shake my head quickly. "Not that thing. I meant the talkin' thing."

But I know even as I watch Giles try to help Satsu up that nothing Buffy says will ever get through to them. Not now. They'll never see her past the vampire wearin' her face. B turns to watch the tender way he helps his Slayer up. I watch the anger and sadness fight their way across her face as she realizes he's not her Watcher anymore. She might be a Slayer but she's no one's tool.

"No. No more talking Faith." I nod slowly at that not sure what she means. "Get out of our house. Don't come back or I'll kill you both. Painfully." Back stiff with anger she backs from the room never letting her eyes waver from the sight of the two of them. I know what's bugging her but I can't talk about it right now. I can just follow her out and hope that no one tries ta take an arrow to our backs.

"You're not going to kill us now?" So fuckin' pitiful. I look over at Satsu and snort.

"How fuckin' thick are you? Look around Peach Fuzz. No one died here today, no one has ta die here today." Buffy's hand is cool on my wrist as she tugs me around and away from them.

"Forget it Faith. Lost cause. For now we're on this side of the line and they're on theirs. Leave them to it."

She'll let them paint her the devil right now. Hell. She'll even let them stumble and limp out of here, all of them alive, but she'll still play her part. She didn't want to do it. Doesn't want them to think of her as dead and gone but they won't heal if they think she has a chance of being their girl again. They'll just keep at her, tryin' ta save her or kill her. No one won here today. Sure no one died. I think. But none of us won anything. We still don't trust each other, still hate the fact that her heart doesn't beat like it used to. But it won't change anything.

Buffy is gonna be Buffy and the Slayers are gonna have a new face to unite under. And she's gonna be strong and good. Maybe better than we were. I move through the darkened hall with Buffy's hand in mine. We pass our people with nods and gentle pats on the shoulder or arm just lettin' feel us. Know we're okay. Relief passes through them like a wave as we walk along. I slip my arm around her small shoulders and she leans in to me as we walk.

"They're dead to me Faith."

Yeah. She's pretty dead to them too. "I know."

"She'll take care of him, and he'll take care of her but they mean nothing. Not to me. Not to us and what we build here. I am Buffy, but I'll never be that Slayer again."

Nope sure won't. But then neither will I. I nod silently and let her lead me to our room. She shuts the door behind us, secure in the knowledge that no one is going to try to take us out tonight. Not right now. "B?"

"Shut up and hold me Faith."




"Shut up and hold me, Faith."

Her arms come up and around me but it's more than that. Her scent, her body heat, all of it surrounds me, and tucks me in close to that oh so important thump. I snuggle in a little further even as a part of me wants to push her away and cut her down so she can feel my anger. My pain. I want her to feel this betrayal slicing my insides like razors. How could they do this to me? Come here to kill me, to take away the only things that matters to me anymore?

And the way he looked at her. The way she rushed to support him when his legs finally gave out. Ugh. Sickening. Throwing that love and devotion in my face. Knowing that someone finally took my spot in his life is one thing but having them plot to kill me is totally different. My thoughts start to take on a darker thread, one with lots of blood and screaming for mercy when Faith's low burr makes me look up at her.

"It's over B. When they regroup they'll see it."

I know she's right. I want it to be over. I really really do. But I have this ball of...feelings that I don't know how to sort out. And it's stuck in my ribs and it freaking hurts. Something is wrong.

"Something's wrong, Faith. It...hurts. My chest hurts."

She grips me tighter and sighs against my temple. The puff of air is warm and faintly scented with cloves. My eyes flutter to a close, and a part of that weight loosens and lifts. What's wrong with me? I'm starting to wonder if Willow and Kennedy are up to something. It'd be just like them to do something like this to me.

"I know Buffy. I feel ya."

I look up at her quickly.

"What's wrong with me?"

The look in her eyes softens and she bites her lip. That worries me even more. And worry tends to go wrong now, it starts to go angry. I start pulling away from Faith but she holds me tighter.

"You're mourning, B." Mourning? I can feel my mouth gape slightly at that. I don't understand this. "You're mourning your death, Buffy."

A rush of loss hits me so strongly that my knees waver and I almost topple. The image of Giles flashes behind my lids and I gasp. I don't want this. I don't want any of this. These feelings, this soul, this fucking body. I'm in hell, I think.

"I can't breathe, Faith."

I can't breathe. Which is fucking hilarious when you think about it. Panic fills me and I'm seriously considering letting the sun be the last thing I see.  Faith's lips descend on mine with just enough pressure to startle me in to opening my mouth. It's so much more than a kiss. It's my lifeline and I take a deep breath before pulling away from her.

"Then I'll breathe for ya."

The tone of her voice is so...earnest. She'd give me the breath in her lungs. Again. One more thing I'd take from her that she'd just give up. Because she loves me that much.

"I don't want to feel this pain, Faith. I can't make it stop."

I just keep going from anger to sorrow, trying to fight the truth. I'm dead. I'm replaced in the land of the living by my younger former lover. It's humiliating. It's painful. It's horrible and I want to never feel this way again. My Watcher, my father, my fucking hero let down. He moved on. I know he needs to but it bothers me just the same. I'm starting to feel like I can't breathe again.

Before I can say anything, she's kissing me again. Breathing her life right into me with every caress of her tongue and lips. I can't freak out if she's not letting me. Do I want to fight this? If I push her away this all ends by the next sunrise. Because I can't live like this. Ha. Live. What a fucking joke. I died. Again. I'm not one of them anymore. I think I waver on the edge a little too long for Faith's comfort and she kisses me again, more urgently, letting me know she's not going to let me go. Not now. Not ever.

Do I want this? Same question, different answer. Hell yes. I want this. I want her. I want it all. I don't even have to really think it through. Faith's hands on my body, warming every sliver of cold skin she can find, they keep me steady, keep the panic at bay. They make me feel alive almost. Feel. They make me feel. She's making me feel something different on purpose. Drowning out that thing inside of me. Dousing every flicker of doubt inside of me. I collapse in to her body as if she's the last solid thing in this reality.

She kinda is. I need more of her solidity against me. More of her soft skin and curves. More of the hard muscle hiding just beneath. God. I even need the sharp electric tang of her blood. The bed bumps the back of her knees and we topple over. It feels like slow motion. Like we could fall and never land if we stay like this.

But we do land and before I can even think about the idea of rolling us over, we're already there. And somewhere in the haze of just breathing together we lose bits of clothing. Easily coaxed off by Faith's clever hands and Slayer strength. Our bodies come together just when I think I might freeze from the cold fear.

It's still not enough. I need more. More heat. I whine softly and it's enough to change Faith's tactics. She was so careful. She wanted me to know she was here and waiting. Always waiting for my needs. Waiting for me. But she wanted more and I think she needs to drown herself in us as much as I do right now. Faith's mouth is hot and wet everywhere, and I can't imagine how she can manage to be so many places at one time.

I rock my hips up to meet her body when she slides between my legs. She's fighting the creep of cold trying to smother us both and goddamn she's doing a good job. If she'd let me I'd force that heat to a blazing fire until we burn ourselves out and hope the cold doesn't come back. But she's got different plans. And I sigh with the caressing strokes and deep slow thrusts.

No. Faith wants us to simmer and smolder until there's no cold left to fear. She'll never let this heat die  out and I instinctively trust her to keep this promise. Now if she can only penetrate the cold knot in my chest with that heat. That splendid lava heat of hers that keeps me grounded to this soul. Faith growls above me, exposing her neck in a line of soft white flesh. How does she know? How does she know what I need without me having to ask for it? Her fingers curve the moment my fangs sink past the tension of her skin.

Oh god. Silk fire slides down my throat and my whole world is drowned out by the beat of her heart. The world has been different since I became a vampire. Things seem...shadowy. Unfocused and unreal. But when I'm with her, when she's inside me like this, everything glows with pale light.  Everything becomes so much more clear. So much more intense.

I realize now that's how it's meant to be. She and I. Two halves of a whole. We shared the burden of one destiny before and we'll share it again. Only this time we're sharing a soul, a home, people to call our own, a business. We'll share the blood and sweat and heat and pain of it all. I clench hard around her, my legs tightening around her waist, thrusting up against her even as I gnaw harder and deeper making her sweet wet blood flow.

Faith and I were never meant to just be Slayers. We'd never survive the power struggle of single leadership. But we were always meant to be together. I whimper as her thrusts stroke deep as we come.

We just had to become something different. Something more. Something whole.



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