Who Am I? by Pat Kelly
Feedback may be sent to Pat at: bandits@erols.com
| CH. 1-4 | CH. 5-8 | CH. 9-12 | CH. 13-16 | CH. 17-18 |
Note

: Part 18 is in Faith's POV

17
CRASHING DOWN (OR - QUITE A RIDE)

All Giles could think about was, if he survived, the amount of money he'd have to put out to repair the damage to his house. Sure, it was only Spike and another demon at the moment, but he knew it was going to get much worse. And he cursed himself for not doing the "reversing a vampire's invitation" spell. He watched as Riley approached Spike, feeling a surge of glee. Spike was about to get his head ripped off.

"You know what I can do to you." Riley said to him.

"Yeah, but you're not going to." Spike responded. "I think the Watcher's house needs some redecorating. Move in boys."

Riley grabbed Spike by the shirt, and was ready and willing to kill the vampire, but he just�stopped. He had no idea why. Spike brushed past him, more demons coming in behind him. Buffy and Faith stood in front of everybody, but they knew that if they stayed here, they'd die. They all would.

"What do we do?" Tara asked, practically yelling. She clung to Willow, scared out of her mind.

"Get to the roof!" Buffy yelled.

They all moved faster than they thought possible. Wesley quickly grabbed the bag of weapons he and Giles had put together, and Anya tossed Xander his gun. Riley stayed still. Willow knew he had the disk, but there was no way she was going back for it. They had bigger problems, and it would have to be worried about later. On their way up to the roof, Faith spoke to Giles.

"Get a back door." She advised. "Cause when we get to the roof, there's that pesky problem of getting down." She stared at Buffy now.

"Did you have a better plan?" Buffy asked.

"I'm just sayin'. Gotta start planning ahead now."

***

Riley knew he could take out quite a few of the things. Which was the one benefit to his altered condition. Yet�no motion. He hated watching everyone run for their lives, and that he couldn't for anything about that. Why couldn't he?

*I'm waiting on you, brother*

Adam's voice rang through his head. This wasn't good.

*What are you doing? *

*Making sure you don't do something foolish. Now come, there are things that must be done*

His legs began moving involuntarily, and kept doing so no matter how hard he tried to fight it. He wasn't in control of his own body.

*What are you doing to me? *

*You think I didn't know you wouldn't voluntarily join me? I allowed you to access the full extent of your upgraded programming, but I made sure you would assist me*

How could he have underestimated Adam? Well, dwelling wouldn't do any good, because he had, and he couldn't change it now. But he knew right then and there he couldn't live like this; as what he was now. He made sure he still had the disk. It could still work, and if the opportunity arose -

Adam's voice interrupted his thoughts. *We have demons to release*

He kept walking. He was Adam's puppet, and all he could do was watch. And listen. He could still hear the growls of the demons fighting their way into the house, as well as see the ones who were waiting to get their hands on the gang, pacing outside. He was about to make things worse. And he didn't have a choice.

***

Joyce was sitting on the front steps of her house when she saw the group of demons, led by Spike, moving down the street. She had been thinking about what happened earlier in the day, not believing her daughter had reacted the way she did, and that she pushed her away.

'What did you expect to happen, Joyce? She loves her and as much you don't want to admit it, Faith loves her back.'

It was still a mistake. They would be under a lot of social pressure, and Faith�well, she was unnerving to Joyce. As much as the girl might have been changing her life around and finding fulfillment, there was still that chance that it would all fall apart, and Buffy would be in the line of fire.

She was a pessimist. Could anyone really blame her? Plus, she was almost stabbed. But she and Buffy had finally had an open relationship, and now it was ruined. All she knew now was that a gang of demons was probably heading to hurt her daughter, and they would never talk again if she lost her.

She didn't want that to happen. She got up and started to head for her car. She didn't know what she was doing exactly, but she was tired of sitting back and not doing anything. Then she saw Angel running in the direction the demons had gone.

"Angel!" She got in, and drove out into the street.

"You should get inside."

"Is she in trouble?"

"Joyce�"

"Is she?"

Angel nodded. "She will be."

"Get in. And don't argue."

He didn't.

***

"Shit. Shit. Shit." Faith cursed. They were on the roof with no place to go, and the demons were coming.

Xander was firing his gun, safety off, but the bullets weren't having any effect. He had a passing thought that Adam probably had engineered their flesh to simply absorb them. Buffy and Faith grabbed the demon that had broken the front door, and tossed him off. They needed to get to the ground. They couldn't maneuver or defend themselves where they were.

"Suggestions? Like, now? Anyone?" Buffy asked.

"How far is it to jump?" Xander asked, hitting a demon in the head with the butt of his gun.

Faith looked down. "Depends. How many bones are you willing to break?"

"We could use magic to lower everybody down." Willow said.

"Yes, but how long would that take?" Wesley asked.

"Uh�awhile." Tara admitted.

"That would leave you fairly drained, I'd imagine, and we can't afford that." Giles said.

"We have to do something." Anya said.

They were getting continually pushed back, further to the edge. Buffy saw a table with Giles' plants sitting out on it. She kicked it over, and grabbed the two of the supports, which held it up. She pushed it hard into the demonic crowd, causing some to fall. And in the next second, luck shined down on them.

They all jumped when a rope flung up, and caught to the edge of the roof.

"How'd this get here?" Willow asked.

"Who the hell cares? What do you say we start climbing down it?" Faith asked hurriedly.

"I'm with her." Xander agreed, taking the initiative first, and going down.

"Who's next?" Buffy asked.

"You and Faith go." Willow said.

Wesley waited until Xander reached the ground, and then tossed the bag of weaponry down to him. Tara was quietly reciting a spell. It might have been wishful thinking, but it seemed like the demons were being held back some. Willow watched, somewhat amazed, and Giles turned to Buffy and Faith.

"Go. We'll see you on the ground."

"You heard the man, B." Faith said, swinging over the ledge.

***

Xander caught the bag, but then felt hands grab his arms. Roughly. They dragged him away from the house, and he saw Initiative soldiers pointing their guns at him. Graham walked forward.

"Let him go. That's an order."

The confused men did as they were told.

"You�the rope?" Xander asked.

Graham nodded. "I'm changing the mission objective." He said to his men. "The Slayers and their friends are not the threat. They are." He pointed to the angry demons, coming ever closer. "We helped this happen. We have a duty as soldiers to fix it and protect the civilians of this town. Are there any objections?"

The men were silent, and then they focused their weapons on the approaching hostiles. And began firing.

"We appreciate this, really," Xander said, "but bullets don't work."

"Spread them out. Switch to blasters. Knock 'em out." Graham told his men. He then unhooked his from his side, and handed it to Xander.

Buffy and Faith hit the ground, seeing the commandos. They quickly figured out that the soldiers were helping, and weren't going to turn away help. Questions were for later. Faith reached down into the weapon bag, grabbed a sword, and tossed another to Buffy. They made sure the gang was still coming down, and ran into the fray

A scaly looking demon, brown blotches covering its body, was hit by an electrical blast. It dropped to its knees, and Faith immediately took its head off. Behind her, Buffy jammed her sword right through one's heart. She turned to Faith and grinned.

"Now we're gettin' somewhere." Faith said.

Buffy spotted Spike, vampiric face on, moving toward her. Her face-hardened, she handed her sword off to Faith, got out a stake, and moved toward him too.

"Ready, Slayer?" He asked.

"I'm gonna kill you."

She kicked his knees, and everything else just got blocked out.

***

"Chaos is interesting when it begins, as well as when it ends." Adam said.

He, Riley, and the other half of his demon force had taken out the soldiers left behind in the complex. Blood and bodies were everywhere. In pieces, and whole. If Riley had still been able to vomit, he would have been doing so. He had been a very active participant in the slaughter, and he knew everyone asked themselves this, but it seemed like a more important question to him right now.

'Why me?'

If he had never joined the military, never been good enough to be selected�oh, but what good was this doing? He still had the disk in his uniform front pocket. There was no reason to change clothes anymore. But he couldn't control his actions, so how was he supposed to get it into Adam's drive?

Riley looked at the only humans still left alive. The scientists. Adam was saving them for the soon to be escapees. The white coat wearing men were standing, close together, trembling like cowards. Riley had a feeling they wished they had never created Adam now. A part of him was saying that it served them right.

Adam went over to the main control system, and opened a panel that revealed a bright green button. He looked at Riley. "Would you like the honor?"

"No."

Riley felt himself moving again.

"I don't think I'll ever understand emotions. They seem to be rather troublesome."

Riley reached out and hit the button. All the cages fields lowered, and the demons cautiously joined the others. When they saw they weren't going to get punished, all their gazes turned to the scientists.

Those that had mouths, smiled twisted, evil smiles as they moved to get revenge.

***

Buffy, Faith, Xander and the commandos had driven the major fighting away from the house, so when Willow, Tara, and Anya stood on the ground waiting for Giles and Wesley to come down, it was relatively safe. Willow was still in shock over the spell Tara had cast. Not only had it kept the demons at bay, but then it carried the creatures up into the air, very high, and dropped them to the ground. Willow was standing next to the bodies. All their necks were broken.

"How did you do that?" Willow asked.

"I'm a little more�powerful than I said. But�but you have more raw power than I ever had at the beginning."

"And it's good she is. She saved our lives." Anya commented.

"How powerful?" Willow couldn't believe it.

"I don't know�uh�really. It just takes concentration. Like, see how the fight's all mixed? Buffy and the soldiers, Faith, for me to do something by myself�I don�t think I could. Too big."

Willow realized at that moment just how little she knew about Tara, and how much she wanted to learn. Tara was powerful, that was obvious. Probably better magickally too, but Willow didn't care. She loved her, and together their spells were focused and almost always worked. There was definitely a connection between them.

She reached for Tara's hand. "What if you had some help?"

Tara beamed at her, her fear that Willow would be hurt by her secret vanished, and they got to work as the two ex-watchers joined them.

***

Faith and Xander had ended up side by side, him doing the electroshocks while she finished the job. She had a demon by the neck, and twisted, killing it. Xander turned up the blaster to the highest setting, and this didn't just shock a demon, it did a full on electrocution. Bodies were smoking on the ground. Problem was, the juice was almost gone.

"How ya doing, X?"

"Gotta say my self esteem is at a high point."

He discarded the weapon as he got one last shot off. They were pretty much in control of the situation. There was definitely strength in numbers. Faith gave him the second sword, and he was feeling pretty good about himself.

"Be careful with that thing, okay? I don't need you dyin' on me." Faith said cautiously.

"No problem."

Faith kicked a demon to the ground, when she realized that they were being encircled.

"You know, I heard snuggling�no wait. That's for warmth." Faith shot him a look. "What? I joke when I'm about to die."

"Well I'm going out swinging." She went to rush them, when she heard an engine.

All the demons growled, and those not quick enough to move out of the way, got hit and flung into the air. One found its way onto a tree branch, staked. The bright headlights forced Xander and Faith to cover their eyes, and then they saw Angel and Joyce run out.

"What kept you?" Xander asked Angel.

"Hold it." Faith said. "You brought her here?"

"He didn't have a choice." Joyce said.

"Whatever. I think the wiccans are by the house. They could use protecting. You should go with him, Mrs. S. It's safer over there."

"No. Where's Buffy?"

"She's fine." Xander assured her.

"But she'd flip if she knew you were here." Joyce didn't move, so Faith just sighed, and pulled out a retractable blade from her pants pocket, and handed it over. "Stick close to me."

***

Spike gave Buffy a pretty vicious uppercut, and her head snapped back. If she weren't a Slayer, she would of spit her own blood out of her mouth from that blow. She retaliated with a blow to his face, flipped her stake around, and hit him again. Blindly, he grabbed her by the shirt, and flung her to the ground.

"Oh look. Your mum's here."

"She's what?" Buffy asked, flipping up.

"I won't kill her. Can't speak for any of the others, but if she's still alive, I'll give her your body personally."

She punched him in the chest repeatedly, and then round-housed him in the head. He did a little roll, as he hit the ground, and she was overtop of him in an instant. She grabbed his hand, and bent his fingers back, feeling satisfied when she heard the snap. He growled in pain.

"Bitch."

"Bastard. I should've killed you as soon as you got that chip. If it wasn't for you, Riley wouldn't have ended up like what he is now."

"Why do you give a damn? You've got a new toy. She's the biggest bitch of them all." He grabbed her throat, squeezed, and stood up.

"He's not human. He's lost that forever." Buffy croaked out.

"It's not all it's cracked up to be. He's gonna have a lot of blood on his hands." The ground started to shake. "What the hell?"

Buffy kicked him in the lower regions, and he let go of her throat. She picked up her stake off the ground, and was prepared to finish the job. But then it shook again.

***

Wesley was in the midst of firing a crossbow at a vampire when the shaking began. His shot missed, but Giles shoved the sharpened edge of his staff into the vampire, dusting him.

"What's going on?" Wesley asked.

"I have no idea."

The demons were as confused as they were.

***

Joyce was knocked to the ground by a horned-creature, and it bent down over her, baring its fangs.

Faith ran and tackled it to the ground. "Bad move."

Xander was by Joyce's side as Faith wrestled to get the upper hand with the demon. "Are you okay, Mrs. Summers?"

Joyce got up, an angry look on her face. "Help her hold it down."

"What?"

"Xander."

"Yes, ma'am."

He went to hold its legs as Faith held its arms. Joyce leaned over its chest, and held the knife above her head. And then she drove it into the demon's heart. As Xander and Faith felt the body go limp, Faith turned to Joyce, suitably impressed.

"Nice. Wicked accurate too."

Joyce allowed herself a grin. "Thanks."

"You made the�oh." Faith smiled. "No problem. It's what I do."

The ground shook beneath them.

***

"What are you doing?" Angel asked, tossing demons aside left and right.

"Just keep them away from us." Tara said calmly.

"You heard her!" Anya screamed at him.

She and Willow clasped hands, and she began to recite a spell in Latin. Willow didn't know why, but she knew the words, and began to say them with Tara. They closed their eyes, and the ground began to shake. They didn't feel it. Just kept chanting. Over and over. The shaking got more violent.

A white light enveloped the witches, and got larger and larger. It moved over Giles' entire property. Everything was blinded in light. Demons howled, screamed�combusted. Every single one within the light's reach, evaporated. When they were done, both girls were breathing heavily.

When they opened their eyes, everyone was looking at them. Especially the dumb-founded commandos.

"What?" Willow asked innocently.

***

"It destroyed any soulless creature within Giles' property." Tara explained.

"Ooh. Did it get Spike?" Willow asked hopefully.

"No." Buffy muttered, clearly pissed. "He took off before the light."

"So that's it, right? We won?" Xander questioned everyone.

"I don't think so." Buffy said cryptically.

"Come on, B. We did it." Faith was ready to celebrate.

"Spike said something about Riley having a lot of blood on his hands. Where did he go, anyway?"

"Jackson, radio the base." Graham said quickly.

"Home base, this is Team Alpha. Come in, over." Jackson waited. Nothing. "Just static, sir."

"What is it?" Joyce asked.

"It's Adam." Graham said.

"Goddamn it!" Faith screamed, and then threw up her hands. "Let's do this."

"Okay. Angel, Faith, Xander, and I will go with the soldiers." Buffy said. "Will and Tara, you guys need rest. Mom, you'll be fine here. Anya -"

"Don't worry, I don't wanna come. But if you come back and Xander's dead -"

"Love you too, honey." Xander said sarcastically.

"I do."

He smiled.

"Buffy." Joyce said.

"Mom, Faith and Xander told me you saved their lives. You don't know how grateful I am for that. Though probably not as much as they are. But Adam�if you thought these things were bad, multiply him by a million bazillion. I just wanna know you'll be safe."

"I�love you, Buffy. I need you to know that."

Everyone looked around as Buffy hugged her mom. "I do know that. Love you too. Thank you for being here."

Before another word could be said, Buffy took one look at Giles and Wesley, got their silent assurances, and the group split up.

***

Graham punched in the code to open the doors that was a back way into the complex. As soon as they opened, he smashed the panel with his gun barrel, so they wouldn't be able to close. It was pitch black inside, except for the blinking of various panels. Adam had turned off the lights.

"Anybody feel like they've been zapped into an Alien movie?" Xander asked.

"I wish I were in a movie. Then I couldn't really die. You getting anything, Angel?" Buffy said.

"They're everywhere." He said in response.

"Yeah, that helps." Faith said.

The commandos were fanning their weapons around the room, listening for the slightest movement. Then it came. Several figures were running past them toward the moonlight, and they had no idea what was going on. Then the lights switched on.

"Where are you going?" Spike practically screamed at what they now saw were retreating demons.

A vampire stopped and turned around. "We got the kills we wanted, now we just want to get the hell out of here. Best of luck man."

"You bloody, ungrateful cowards!"

Faith wanted to laugh. Spike was scared as hell. Her good mood was gone quickly, though, because they all saw the bodies. The blood, the carnage, the�enjoyment. They got their kills all right, and they had fun.

"Relax, Spike. We still have our own personal army." Adam said.

The group looked from Adam, to Riley, and then their gazes shifted upwards to the catwalk, where the other half of Adam's experiments stood, snarling. They began jumping down.

"I'm gonna be sore in the morning." Faith said, running to meet her opponents.

"You're going to be sore?" Xander asked incredulously. "What about me?"

Graham ordered his men to get more blasters from the weapons locker. One of the demons knocked it over, busting it open, simply making the blasters easier to access. But Jackson took a clawed hand in the stomach. Two of his fellow soldiers shot filled the demon's head with bullet after bullet, and not even the "super skin" was enough to keep it alive. Everybody was then armed with blasters.

***

They split off. Xander went with Angel, Buffy with Faith, and each pair took a side of the complex. The commandos took the center. Adam had moved up to the catwalk, and was watching the fight. Riley hadn't moved, and Spike was trying to hide behind any group of demons he could.

"How do you wanna handle this?" Faith asked Buffy.

"We take out the demons first. Adam doesn't seem to want to join in the fun, and I'm in no rush to go up against him."

"That's why I love ya, B. Your strategies are so simple." She zapped two demons in rapid succession.

Buffy smiled, flipping a demon over top of her. "Right back at ya. Riley still has the disk, anyway."

Faith looked. "He's coming over here. Maybe you better ask him for it. Oh�and what the hell happened back at the house."

***

Adam watched Riley approach the slayers from his position.

"Let's make it interesting."

***

"Riley�what's going on?" Buffy asked slowly.

"I'm sorry." He said before delivering a punch to her chest that sent her careening across the room.

Faith's eyes widened. "You played us the whole time, didn't you?"

She rushed him, but he grabbed her by the shirt. "Adam is�" Faith struggled, but reached her hand down to get the disk. Riley knew this, and was fighting Adam all he could. When Faith got the disk, he lost control, and skewered her side, tossing her down.

The disk skittered out of her hands, and ended up about five feet away from Buffy. She was still disoriented, so she crawled slowly, towards it. Riley was just a smidgen faster and about five seconds away from stomping on it.

***

Angel and Xander grabbed one of the last demons by its arms, and shoved it into a cell with others that they had either fried or snapped. The commandos were handling the rest. Just to be on the safe side, though, Xander hit the keypad combination, and locked them in there. He picked up his blaster off the ground.

"Xander!" Angel yelled, seeing Riley close to Buffy, who was about to smash all of their hopes.

Xander reacted quickly, sending a jolt Riley's way. It was enough to make him stop, so Angel ran and grabbed the disk off the floor.

"Get it into Adam." Buffy said to him. "Hurry!"

Riley kicked Buffy in the stomach. Again, and again. Xander went to check on Faith. Angel, using his vampire acrobatics, jumped up to the catwalk in one fluid leap. He and Adam stood toe to toe.

"Why is that so important?" Adam asked.

"Let's find out."

Adam threw a punch that Angel dodged easily. The cybersoldier was strong, but he wasn't that fast. Angel was, and he leapt over and behind him, grabbing onto Adam's neck. The disk was still firmly in Angel's hands. Adam couldn't shake him, so he backed up banging Angel hard into the wall. Into a panel.

"Self destruct in T-Minus One Minute." A computer voice spoke.

Adam flipped Angel over back in front of him, and Angel stayed on his feet. He saw the drive, and jammed the disk into it. Adam immediately started to shake, but knocked Angel off the catwalk.

Riley had been just about to crush Buffy's head with his foot, and then he felt the connection break. Buffy was wheezing, trying to breathe. Riley looked up at Adam, and his eyes darkened. He moved up the stairs to him.

"I always hated having a brother."

With all the strength he had, he tore Adam's head clean off.

"T-Minus forty-five Seconds."

Riley ejected the disk from Adam's drive, and looked at it in his hands.

***

"Is she okay?" Faith asked.

"Yeah." Xander said. "It's almost over."

They both saw Buffy struggling to her feet. And someone else, coming behind her.

***

"Riley, no!" Buffy yelled to him.

"You have to get out. This place is gonna blow." He looked at her sadly. "I can't live like this."

"I'm sorry! For letting this -"

"It wasn't your fault. Just be happy. I know I will be when this is over."

"T-Minus Twenty seconds."

Before she could say another word, he had entered the disk into his drive, and began to shake. He closed his eyes and waited. Buffy looked at him for one more second, and began to turn her head to search for Faith. What she saw instead was Spike coming at her with a rather large lead pipe. He pulled back, and swung at her head.

Then�blackness.

***

Despite her injuries, Xander had to hold Faith back.

"Let me go! Buffy! That fucking son of a bitch!"

Spike wasted no time at all, and sprinted out into the night. Angel had scooped Buffy into his arms.

"T-Minus Ten,"

"Nine,"

Tears were burning down Faith's face. They had to run.

"Eight,"

"Seven,"

"Is she dead?"

"Faith, we all will be if we don't go. Come on!" Xander screamed, dragging her.

They all ran out of there, the commandos behind them, as the countdown continued to lower. They kept going, and going, and going, until they finally dove behind some bushes. Then Lowell House erupted, fire burning the building all around.

But Faith didn't care. She took Buffy from Angel's arms, and felt her pulse. She was alive.

"Don't you do this to me, damn it! Wake up. I can't do this without you, you hear me? I love you, B and this isn't fucking fair!" She laid her head on Buffy's chest.

Angel and Xander silently looked down at Faith, who was quietly repeating two words.

"Wake up, wake up, wake up�"

Angel put his hand on her shoulder. "We need to get her to a hospital."

Graham switched on his radio. "We need fire trucks, and an ambulance over at�"

***

Back at the house, they were trying to clean up. But the mess just ended up looking semi-organized.

"You think they're okay?" Joyce asked.

"Judging from that big boom�I'd say they won. Unless they didn't�get out in time�" Anya worried.

"I'm sure they're perfectly safe." Wesley assured.

"They've all faced situations like this before." Giles added.

"What could possibly happen?" Tara asked.

The phone, sitting on the floor, began to ring.


EPILOGUE (OR - IT'S A LITTLE HARD TO PLAN)

I know where I am. I can smell the alcohol. Fuck. I quietly shut the door. The TV's on, and 'GAME OVER' is flashing on the screen. Pong. Gotta love it. I don't hear anybody, but that doesn't mean shit. They always had a knack for being there when I least expected it, and I really don't wanna be here.

I walk into the little rat infested hole we called a kitchen. She's there. With a knife in her hands. Oh, that was fun. But she doesn't turn to me like I expect her to. She was the only one who could make me scared. The only one. Well, dad wasn't exactly a saint, but mom was more creative.

She's yelling. Why is she yelling? I'm behind her. Who else could she be yelling at? She's bringing down the knife. I can almost hear the slice. Then the scream. Shit. It's not�is it? Mom turns, and then I see her. Buffy.

"We're showing her lots of love. Just like we did for you." Mom says.

"Get the fuck away from her!" I scream, but I can't move.

"You always were a little firecracker. And it always got you into trouble."

"Faith! Get out!" Buffy yells to me.

Doesn't she know I can't? I ain't leaving her here. Someone's turning me around. Shit, it hurts. Daddy's got my wrists. He's smiling at me. I can see the light reflect off his dog tag,

"Everything five by five, princess?"

"Yes, daddy. Everything's� five by five." I hate him. I feel so goddamn weak.

"Don't worry about your friend. She's in good hands."

He's staring at her. Fucking bastard's licking his lips. He's�changing.

Spike.

"Come on, pet. Your mum's not done having her fun."

He's dragging me away. I'm struggling, and kicking, and screaming, but he's too strong. He opens the front door, and tosses me out.

The last thing I hear is more screams.

***

I open my eyes and realize I'm still in the hospital. Still by her bed. She's still there, monitors beeping. And they better keep beeping, goddamn it.

Fucking dreams. As soon as we got her in here, I thought about splitting. It was so intense. B's the hardheaded one. She's not supposed to be in here. Getting comas is my deal. Anyway, I changed my mind about leaving when I first started having the dreams. I don't know if it's because of the bond, or my own screwed up nightmares but there was no way I was gonna let her deal with my past by herself.

Yeah, and I've done a fantastic job. It's been four, long as hell, fucking, months. Well, that's not true. There's exactly one week and two hours. Then we reach the four-month marker. It's not like I'm keeping track or anything. Oh who the hell am I kidding? She's been the only thing on my mind. I made them give me a cot.

What are visiting hours again?

Everyone else has been in and out, but I haven't moved. Don't intend to, either. Angel and Wes left after about two weeks. The big guy was taking it hard. We both�kinda got each other. Understanding and all. He was feeling pain on a whole different level, though, cause the last time she was in a hospital, he had put her there. So he went back to LA.

Told me he'd round up all his contacts and find out where Spike disappeared to. The first couple weeks, all the vamps I saw were him. And I pounded the shit out of every single one. They all musta got word around about how pissed I was, cause Sunnydale's been victim free since. Good. Cause the only slaying I wanna do is him.

Calm down, Faith. Positive energy.

Joyce? Well, let's just say that there's nothing like a tragedy to bring people together. Think she finally gets how much I really love her daughter. I think I'm finally starting to get it too. She comes in here every day and drags me down to the hospital caf to eat something. We talk. Sometimes she pries stuff outta me. My childhood and stuff. But she doesn't push, and that's cool.

Summers' women have a way of getting to me, in case you hadn't figured it out yet.

Sometimes Red and Tara are with her too. Cute as always, but I'd never admit it out loud. Think they did a lot of talking after it was all over. Don't know about what exactly, but they seem closer. If that's possible.

And Xander is all straightened out. He better be. He comes in to see her when he thinks I'm asleep. He talks to her sometimes, apologizing. Other times he just stands there, telling his stupid jokes. There was a talk, clearing of the air, and now they all fuss over me. Ask me how much sleep I get, and all the other stuff I really could care less about right now. Still appreciate that they're looking out for me, though.

What time is it, anyway? Quarter to twelve. Joyce'll be here soon.

Ya know, I hope B isn't trying to beat my eight-month record. I just want her up. I wanna�do everything with her. But nothing I do is gonna bring her out of this. After all this, if I have to go through another four months -

"Faith?"

What the hell? It's a nurse. "Yeah?"

She points to the phone by the bed. "It's been ringing."

Shit, I didn't even hear it. I pick it up, and look at the nurse. She takes the hint and goes away. "Yeah?"

It's Angel. "He's here."

I don't believe it. "In the city?"

"Word is, he was just passing through, but he was speeding so fast, that he wrecked his car and caused a pile up. He fled the scene and has been hiding out."

"What the hell took so long?"

"I just got my hands on the police report a few days ago. And apparently the local vampires have been complaining about a new guy moving in on their territory. Guess he got hungry."

Spike's mine. "I'll be there in a couple hours." I go to hang up.

"How is she?"

"Stable. Is it ever any different?" I'm snapping at him, and I don't really mean to. "Shit, I'm sorry."

"It's okay. We'll be waiting."

I hang up, and lean over her. "It's finally payday, B. I'll get him. I swear. Feel free to come to while I'm gone, okay?" I mean that. And I kiss her to give her just a little more incentive to open those eyes.

Standing up, I feel like my entire body is suddenly remembering how to work. Going toward the door, Joyce ends up on the other side.

"What's going on? Is -?" She asks. Well she usually has to drag me out of the chair.

"She's the same." Her eyes are relieved and disappointed at the same time. Hopefully killing Billy'll cheer us both up. "You up for a drive, Mrs. S?"

***

Joyce is driving, and just feeling the sun on me, is giving me an extra lift. Energy. I may not be able to bring B out of it, but I sure as hell can get her revenge. Being outside for more than two seconds is making me realize just how much time has passed for her. He took away so much time from her.

Yeah, she stabbed me and I lost eight. So fucking what? What great contribution would I have made to the world? If she hadn't knocked me out, I'd probably be dead or roaming the streets. I wouldn't be where I am now, I'm sure of that. Hey, how about that? A coma that gave me a life. Ironic. Or something like that. But B, she's got school, friends, me, going nuts out here waiting, so her "Wait, stop and think" philosophy really doesn't apply.

I keep trying to figure out when I became so�connected to her. I mean, she stops me from letting myself get run over. Then we go to her helping me try to find out who I am, and I still don't have a fucking clue, to making out on her couch.

It just gets all muddled from there. I got sidetracked from the original plan. That always happens with me. But this time instead of going from something good to fucking it up, I go from fucking it up to something so good I don't even have the words for.

A part of me is afraid to lose her because I think all this so called "progress" I made is thanks to her. What if I go back? I don't wanna do that, but I don't want to be dependent on her, either. I always thought that's what a relationship led to. Somebody has to give up a part of who they are. But I don't know who I am. So what do we have? What am I giving up?

"Faith, what's wrong?" Joyce asks me. That "mother's intuition" is finely tuned.

Better just get to the root of it. "Do you know who you are?"

Much to my surprise, after a couple seconds, she shakes her head. "No."

"No? How can you not? You're in your forties."

"Thanks for reminding me." She has a half-smile on her face.

"That's not what I�you've had a kid, life experience�how can you not know who you are by now?"

"No one knows, Faith. And if anybody tells you otherwise, they're lying. Every time I think I've finally got a grip on who I am, something always surprises me."

"What do you mean?"

"Four months ago, I never thought I'd be the type of person to hold a knife above a demon's heart, and then stab it. Never thought I'd have the courage. I couldn't even visualize it. But I did it, and it made me wonder what else is still hidden. What part of myself haven't I found yet?"

Wow. "That was deep."

"You think?"

This is what I wanted. She just amazes the hell outta me. But�I have to know something. "When�Buffy wakes up�where will we stand?"

"I'm glad you said that, because you've been strong for both of us ever since�since Buffy�and you didn't have to be. But you are, and it's nice to have somebody to talk too. You and Mr. Giles both.

"I know the past has been a little rocky, but the past is the past, and I�while I can't say that I can completely understand your life, what you've been through, or why you've done some of things you've done, you've proven to me that you're not the same person you were. You saved my life.

"You love her, I can see that. I'm just sorry it took Buffy getting hospitalized for me to realize all this."

This day was just getting better and better. "So who am I to you?"

"Honestly? I always knew that underneath all your layers, even when you were trying to hide, that there was a good girl in there." She looks embarrassed. "Was that too mom-ish?"

Is she kidding? "No, no it wasn't."

***

The look on Queen C's face was priceless. It was the, "Okay, I was on vacation while my friends and boss fought for their lives and I have no idea what's going on" look. And that all happened months ago. Cordelia did always seem slow on the uptake about certain things. But mostly, she was scared shitless. Of lil' ol' me. Can you believe that? I was very amused.

Now it's more of an annoyed, "Guess I gotta put up with this" look. She's keeping Joyce company, which is good. Basically, what it comes down to is this: Spike's living in the sewer. Can't believe he sunk that low. Though I guess most of the rundown abandoned buildings are already taken by crack dealers and homeless people. I'd probably take the sewer too.

I never did drugs. If I had, I'd be pretty fucked up right now. Slayer side of me may be able to fight it off, but I never took that chance. It's the one thing I wouldn't do. STDs, fine. Drugs, no way. See? Faith has standards too. My parents were on the stuff. That's why I don't touch it. Dad brought it back from whatever war he fought in. Mom shot up regularly while daddy was doing time. She thought I was too young to know what she was doing. Yeah, I was, but I did know I never wanted to do it.

Why memory lane all of the sudden? Cause B's not here to stop me. You think I like thinking about this stuff?

"You ready?" Angel's asking me now.

I pull Mr. Pointy�Jesus Christ, a stake with a name. Where was�right. I pull Mr. Pointy out of my jacket. "Do you need to ask?"

Joyce stops talking to Cordelia, and looks at me. I know that look.

"I don't want to fight�" Huh? "But I do want to watch."

How can I deny her that pleasure? When I turn to look back at Angel, he's not there anymore. That's creepy even to me. He comes back in carrying something, and then we're gone.

***

He's quick; I'll give him that. He's sprinting down the tunnel, and he's got damn good reason to run. I tell Joyce to stay put. We'll drag him back to her. And enjoy every second. It's so close. I don't know, but I got it set in my head that if we dust him, she'll wake up. Eye for an eye, coma for a death.

He finally hits a dead end, and turns around.

"Maybe she's flatlining right now." He says.

Motherfucker. Where does he get the balls? I rush him and beat on him and beat on him. Oh shit. This is what he wants. He's trying to get to me. I might screw up; he might get the upper hand�I back off, and pull him up. Angel gets in back of him, and we start walking back to Joyce.

"Where we headed?" He asks.

"I promised someone they'd get to see you die."

"It's only fair you know. She always got the better of me. For two years. I wanted revenge."

"So do I." I reply, hoping he hears just how much I want it.

"Then you understand."

"Yeah, I understand. I understand that you're of fucking pathetic excuse for a vamp whose glory days are long gone, so you had to get a cheap shot to win."

"I'm a demon, pet. There's no right and wrong. At least I know that."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"With the exception of daddy over here, I'm all demon. No humanity. Feed, kill, and enjoy it. I have clarity about who I am that humans will never have. Especially you. She's a slayer; I'm a vampire. We're supposed to tangle. She lost."

He's trying to use logic on me? "Let me explain something to you. Again, with an exception, it goes: slayer, vampire, dead vampire. Second, she lost, but that doesn't mean you can get away with it."

"And you can? What makes you any better than me?"

Fuck. Don't lose it. "I care about what I did. It's there every day and I know it'll never go away. And I don't want it too. It hurts like hell, but I wanna feel it. You slaughtered hundreds, and you don't give a shit. That's why I'm better than you."

"You wanna live with pain? You are insane."

I punch him in the back of the head. "I sure as hell don't wanna forget it. When Buffy's around, it just reminds me of what I don't ever wanna be again."

"And who are you now?"

I press Mr. Pointy into his back. "The one who gets to kill you."

***

"Delivered as promised." I say to Joyce when we get back. Smart. She's standing below the manhole. Sun around her.

We shove Spike against the wall, and she walks up to him.

"Hello, Joyce." He's got a little smirk on his face.

And she�BAM. Right in the face. She shakes her wrist, and is holding her hand, but that was a damn good shot. I finally see what Angel brought. Damn. A metal crossbow? The case has even got holders for the metal stakes. Quality weapon. See, I promised him he could have some fun first, so I'll just sit back and watch.

He steps back, and loads it up. Spike doesn't get it.

"What are you gonna do with that? Metal can't kill us. Or have you forgotten in your old age?"

"Doesn't mean it doesn't hurt."

And�whoa. He fires one into Spike's arm. It busts into the wall, so Spike's stuck. Damn. And then it's rapid fire. Angel loads the next one, and it goes into the other arm. The next one into the right leg, and the last one in the left. I swear to God, it took less than ten seconds. Spike's in a lot of pain.

"Bloody Hell! You bastard! Just stake me already!"

Well, if that's what he wants...no wait. Do I have -? Oh, here we go. Matches. Never leave home without 'em. I pick one out and strike it against the box. I walk up to him. He's shaking his head. Not gonna work.

"Bet you're wondering what I'm gonna do with this. Well, I'll tell ya," I say frowning, "I never really did like your hair."

I drop the match onto his hair, and watch it burn. He's cringing, squirming, I think there was a cry of agony in there too.

"You poor bastard. Don't worry, Faith'll make all the pain stop. Do you want to die?" He's shaking his head. "No? So you want to live with the pain?"

"Seems kind of insane to me." Angel says.

I grin. "You know what? I think he's right."

I jam the stake into his chest. His eyes widen for a second, and then his dust is falling into the sewage. Angel comes next to me, and starts pulling out his metal stakes. Going over to Joyce, we both take deep breaths.

He's dead, and it's over. I'm happy. I feel good. Relieved. There's one less thing left unsettled, but I'm not really satisfied yet. It's time to go home and wait for her to wake up.

***

Here I am again. Nothing's different. It's all the fucking same. I did the right thing. Shouldn't I get a reward? Now I know how Graham and his men felt after we blew up the house. They did the right thing, stopped the bad guys. But the day after, all these military jeeps blow into town, and take 'em all away. Guess it doesn't pay to protect your country these days. I see military guys over by the rubble sometimes, still trying to salvage something.

I didn't tell her what we did, cause I knew that she knew already. I've been getting joy outta the memory for the past three hours. She must of seen it. Wonder how far this bond thing stretches? I said I was connected to her, and I am. I know that I've never been dependent on her, now that I think about it. But I do expect her to be there. Like a constant. I can do all the daily stuff without her help, but she makes me a better person.

Or she helps me see that there's this better person inside. One of those.

Who Am I? That big question. It can't be answered. I get that. I mean, the human race lives in gray area. Nobody's totally good or totally bad. I'm on the side of "good" now I guess, so that means I have to keep working to stay there. I'm always gonna be tempted, I'll probably screw up, though hopefully they'll be less fatal screw-ups. And that's everybody. Hopefully there'll be somebody watching my back. Think she got the hint? I'm just gonna live, and hopefully when it's all over, I'll be near the top instead of the bottom.

So who am I? I'm just me. I control who I am in the future, and no one else. I think I'm ready to take on that responsibility.

***

I know where I am. I can smell the alcohol. Fuck. I quietly shut the door. The TV's on, and 'GAME OVER' is flashing on the screen. Pong. Gotta love it. I don't hear anybody, but that doesn't mean shit. They always had a knack for being there when I least expected it, and I really don't wanna be here.

I walk into the little rat infested hole we called a kitchen. She's there. With a knife in her hands. Oh, that was fun. But she doesn't turn to me like I expect her to. She was the only one who could make me scared. The only one. Well, dad wasn't exactly a saint, but mom was more creative.

She's yelling. Why is she yelling? I'm behind her. Who else could she be yelling at? She's bringing down the knife. I can almost hear the slice. Then the scream. Shit. It's not�is it? Mom turns, and then I see her. Buffy.

"We're showing her lots of love. Just like we did for you." Mom says.

"Get the fuck away from her!" I scream, but I can't move.

"You always were a little firecracker. And it always got you into trouble."

"Faith! Get out!" Buffy yells to me.

Doesn't she know I can't? I ain't leaving her here. Someone's turning me around. Shit, it hurts. Daddy's got my wrists. He's smiling at me. I can see the light reflect off his dog tag,

"Everything five by five, princess?"

"Yes, daddy. Everything's� five by five. For the first time in too fucking long."

I'm surprising myself more than I am him. I kick him in the stomach, and he lets go. Buffy sees me fighting back, and decides to join in. She kicks the knife out of mom's hands, and mom falls to the ground. She runs to me and we move to leave.

I stop, though. I turn around and look at them. I was scared of them once, but now they're on the floor, shocked, powerless. I could do anything I wanted to them right now, but they're pathetic. And they're not gonna get one more second of my attention. Buffy grabs my hand, and I turn back around.

She smiles at me as we leave.

***

When I wake up, I jump out of the cot, and go to her bed. That had to mean something. It had to.

I know she's gonna wake up. She is�she is�she�shit her eyes are opening. Thank you God, Buddha, and whoever else might be out there. Joyce is getting coffee. She'll be back and�wow. I haven't really cried since it happened, but the tears are flowing now. She's reaching her hand out and I grab it.

"Hey�" She croaks.

What do I say? I love you? I missed you? It's about time?

"Hey." So I can't really speak right now.

"How ya been?"

I chuckle. "Oh you know�going out of my mind. Nothing major." Her eyes go wide. "Four months."

"That long?"

"Yep."

She's sniffing me. "When's the last time you showered?"

"I think I was out in the rain a couple weeks ago."

"Smartass."

Oh yeah. I definitely missed this. "Are you okay?"

"All things considered. I do have one question, though."

Uh oh. "What's that?"

"Who am I?" No way. There's no way she...okay, I'm panicked. How can she? I mean�shit. "Come here."

I do, and she pulls me close to her. "Gotcha."

Huh? Oh... "Bitch." I whisper with a smile.

She looks hurt. "Does this mean I don't get a wake up kiss?"

Damn her. She knows she is.

END

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