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 |

1
RESTART (OR - FIVE BY FIVE WHAT?)

"Who am I?" Faith asked herself sitting in the back of the truck.

Everyone asked themselves that at one point or another, but for Faith, it was not a casual, fleeting question. She needed an answer, and she needed it then and there. She had just spent the previous night, and the better part of a day in Buffy Summers' body. And she had experienced things she had never thought possible.

She was running down the list in her head. She had been appreciated, she had been loved, by a parent and by a boyfriend, and she had done the right thing. And shockingly, looking back, it had felt good. But she had to keep reminding herself that the love, the gratitude, was not for her. It was for Buffy.

Looking down at her own body now, she was ashamed of what she had let it become. It had been worn down, used, and it had killed. She stared at her hands in disgust. The hands that had held weapons used for murder. And without assistance, her hands had killed through brute force.

It was a sickening feeling, hating your own body. Wanting to destroy it but knowing the little voice in her head, the one designed to keep survival a priority, would not let her. Where had that voice been last year? When she started on the dark path that had become her life? She let out a dry laugh.

It had been there. She had just convinced it that murdering was necessary for survival. She might not have been able to hurt herself, but that didn't mean she couldn't let anyone else do it for her. The voice popped up again, telling her she was almost out, almost free.

She knew now that the voice was corrupted. She shut it up, and banged on the truck.

"Yeah?" The driver called back.

"Let me out."

"We're not out of town yet."

"Just stop."

She felt the truck slow down, and she opened the back doors, hopping out. She shut them again, and hit them, telling the driver to take off. As the vehicle pulled away, she walked along the road, hoping that she might get hit accidentally. She just wanted everything to be over.

***

"How could you not know?" Buffy asked Riley eventually, after the lingering thoughts of Faith had plagued her long enough.

"She�I don't know�she came on a little strong at first�"

"Did she? Maybe I shouldn't have asked for an explanation." She got up off of his bed, and faced away from him.

"But I told her I didn't want that. And then�"

Buffy turned around to face him now, her strong, interrogating Slayer face on. "Then what?"

"She was you. And I bought it."

"She was me? Just because she had my body doesn't mean�come on, Riley."

"I'm not�what I did, there's no excuse for. I just know what happened. And you can do whatever you want with me, because I'd deserve it."

"So," Buffy couldn't believe she was asking this, "what happened?"

"Details aside�"

"Thanks."

"I was making love to Buffy Summers. She didn't act like�she acted like you. Maybe it was because she knows you so well�"

"She didn't do anything 'un-me' at all?"

"Surprised."

"Huh?"

"Surprised. She seemed surprised that someone was�well, hindsight doesn't really help right now, does it?"

"I know you didn't think that it wasn't me, and I'm sure Faith was convincing," she said 'convincing' in a harsh tone, "but that still doesn't make it any better."

Riley got out of the chair, and Buffy turned her head away from him. He cupped her cheek in his hand. "Hey. I love you. You have to know that, right?"

"Yeah, I know."

He bent down and kissed her softly. "Then punish me."

Buffy went wide-eyed. "Now wait a second. Faith may go in for that, but I don't. And you're in the doghouse as it is."

He laughed quietly. "I meant I'll do whatever it takes to make it up to you. As long as you don't plan on never seeing me again."

"Oh." She flushed. "Well, good. And -"

Then the ringing began. They both looked toward the source of the noise, which was the phone. She pointed to it, and he went over and picked it up.

"Hello?�You're sure?�Where?�No, tell them not to engage�No, I'll check it out�Probably�Well it's not your call�Thank you for the information, Agent."

Riley hung the receiver up, and closed his eyes in frustration.

"What is it?" Buffy asked him.

"Forrest�oh you mean�it's Faith. She's still here."

"She's what?"

"She's walking along the road just outside of town. Patrol team spotted her about five minutes ago."

"I gotta go, then." Buffy said, already making her way toward the door.

"Buffy I can -"

"Just me."

***

Faith continued along the road, staying just off of the asphalt. She still couldn't work up the guts to step out and see what happened to collide with her. The voice had surfaced again, screaming with all its might to keep her out of harm's way. But she was slowly beating it down.

Who was going to care, anyway? Buffy wasn't going to rush in to stop her, Willow most certainly didn't care, Xander was scared of her, and Giles, he would�he wasn't sure what he would do. She had nothing to live for. No job, no place, no family, she had had friends once, but she blew that chance.

She watched as a Sports car flew by. If she had been run over by that, there was still a chance at living. Then she saw a bread truck. Perfect. And just so there was no risk of the driver seeing her and breaking before impact, she quickly walked out into the road, effectively killing the voice, and laid down.

And waited.

And waited.

And wait�then she felt something pull her up. Before she realized what was going on, she was being forced to run back off the road. When her feet touched the grass, the force holding her up let go, and she fell.

"What the hell did you think you were doing?" Buffy's voice asked her.

Great. She may have killed the voice, but it came back to life as Buffy. That's when she turned her head, and saw that it was really Buffy standing over her.

"B. I never thought you'd come."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I never thought you'd come? Not really a brain teaser." Buffy stood in a defensive position, waiting for Faith's attack, but it never came. The brown-haired slayer simply laid on her back in the grass. "I'm glad you did, actually."

"You are?"

"It's always nice having someone you know around to witness your suicide. Notes are for the weak."

"That's what you were doing? For what possible reason?"

"Heard it was in this year. You know me, B. Always stayin' with the trends."

"That's�wrong." Faith let out a full-fledged laugh now. "What? What'd I say?"

"Nothing. Forget it. And why do you care what happens to me? One less problem for you and your gang to worry about."

Buffy finally eased herself to a sitting position near the other girl. "Is that what you think you are?"

"I know what I am. And I know what I am to you."

"You have no idea -"

"Oh I do. Changing houses gave me a whole new perspective. The Scoobies hate me, and so do you."

"Okay, so maybe they have a grudge or two�and why are we having a heart to heart?"

"Damned if I know. I'm just waiting for you to kill me."

"God, Faith�what happened to you? And I'm not going to kill you."

"I don't know who the hell I am anymore. And you didn't have a problem getting it done last year."

"I wasn't trying to kill you. I was playing by your rules. I was being what you wanted me to be. Besides, you're the one who jumped off the roof."

"Potato, Pototto. And I'd never want you to be like me. Ever."

"Let's get everything out. I tried to reach out to you, but you weren't being receptive girl. But you kept pushing and pushing for me to see your side of things. And I did. Things got out of hand. So don't say you didn't want me to."

"If you're gonna get technical, then, okay, yeah. Then. Now, if you ever, ever turned out like me�well you were me. How was it?"

Buffy looked down at her hands. "I�you�got spit on."

"Really? Got off easy. I tried so hard to be me in there," she pointed to Buffy, "but I ended up being you."

"You were in control. You could've done anything you wanted. And from what Riley told me, you did."

"That boy has it hot for you."

"And you enjoyed taking advantage of that, didn't you?"

"I wanted to, but I couldn't."

"You couldn't?" Buffy half-stated and half-asked. She didn't believe it.

"He used the L word. It wasn't for me."

Buffy thought for a few moments, contemplating what to do. Faith was on the verge of something, and Buffy didn't quite get it yet. But she wanted to. And if she pushed her away now, it would've been her last chance to reach the other slayer.

Buffy stood up, and reached out her hand. "What do you say we get outta here?"

"And go where? Cops want me, remember?"

"They won't find you."

***

The two witches had just returned to Tara's room.

"So�you do that kind of thing a lot?" Tara asked Willow.

"You mean the waiting while Buffy kills the evil things? I used to do it a lot more, but yeah, I have experience."

"Have you ever been hurt?" Tara asked quickly.

"Once. It's a long story."

"You did it for her, didn't you? Whatever, you know, happened?"

Willow sat on the bed. "Yeah. I�it was�I just wanted to see her happy." She smiled. "What'd you think of her? The real her."

"She was nice. I don't know if she likes me, though."

"Why?"

"She's protective of you. She cares about you."

"I care about her too. We're best friends. She has to be cautious. It comes with her job. But once she gets to know you�"

"It's good that she watches out for you. I just�don't want her to hate me."

"She doesn't hate you. Well, unless you're planning to hurt me. But I know you're not."

Tara shook her head quickly. "No! No way."

Willow grabbed her hand, and smiled. "You want to go find her so she can get to know you better? She'll like you as much as I do. I know she will."

"Okay." Tara said, nodding.

***

Buffy led Faith into the college's empty gymnasium. They walked over onto the mats.

"Hang on, I'll be right back." Buffy said. She walked near the back of the gym and disappeared into a side room.

"This isn't exactly below cop radar."

"Please. The police in this town don't see anything unless it's right in front of them. And even then they're still blind." Buffy said, coming back with a punching bag. "Point is, they aren't going to come here looking for you. They probably think you're long gone."

"So what are we doing here?"

"Blowing off some steam," Buffy said hooking the bag to chain that came down from the ceiling, "and we're going to work this whole thing out."

"Okay it's my turn to ask this now. Why aren't you attacking me?"

"Cause I don't attack somebody that isn't attacking me. But you really wanna know why?" Faith shrugged, but she really did want to know. "I don't want to. I never really have. You're like a sister to me."

Faith tried very, very hard not to let her jaw hang open in shock.

***

Giles was eating a salad, his lunch, when Spike barged in, jacket over his head. The vampire slammed the door shut, and stood there looking at the ex-watcher, clearly angry. Giles simply took a bite of his salad.

"You too?" Spike growled. "Goddamn chip!"

Giles looked up finally. "Something wrong, Spike?"

"Everyone's a comedian. Well I don't need it. You hear me?"

"Perfectly. Why are you here? Because I seem to recall your last words to me were, 'I hate you all.'"

"I do. With a bloody passion."

"Then would you mind leaving?"

"Yeah, I would." Spike sat on the couch by the TV. "It's that Slayer of yours. She's pissing me off."

"And you expect me to care why?"

"She's losing her mind, and I can't take it."

"Fine, I suppose I'll ask. Why exactly is she losing her mind?"

"It's not so much her mind as her morals. Buffy the Vampire Slut."

"Excuse me?" Giles asked, nearly choking on a crouton.

"Yeah. That's right. She was all over me. Flaunting it."

"And this was when?"

"Last night. I just�god, if I could just tear out her throat�only her. That's all I ask."

"Oh." Giles said in a relieved tone. "I believe that was Faith."

"Wait." Spike said rising from the couch and walking over to the table. "You said Faith was brown-haired," he raised his hand just below his neck, "this tall, and criminally insane."

"She is, but there was a slight mix up."

***

Faith was punching the bag repeatedly as Buffy held it. The brown-haired slayer was clearly angry, and she was making the bag hurt.

"Talk to me. You had a chance to screw up my life, but didn't. Why?"

"Because�I�couldn't. I was gonna. Destroy your life, split. But it's meaningless. It's all meaningless."

"My life?"

"Mine." She stopped punching and was breathing heavily. "This body screws and kills. Yours loves and saves. See the difference?"

"You're not your body. You're you. A body doesn't make you who you are."

"What did you do to get away from the Council guys? Did you reason with them?"

"I tried."

"But it didn't take, did it? They didn't care what you had to say, did they? So what did you have to do? Use violence? Threaten? Why didn't you act like you?"

"I know what you're driving at, okay? So you have a rep. You can change."

"It's too late. My place is set. It was cool being in your shoes. Being appreciated was...made me realize how big I screwed up. I made the wrong choices, and I can't fix it. It�s easy for you to say I can. You've got it better."

"Do you hate me?"

"Yeah. I did. Cause the Mayor convinced me it was easier."

"Why'd you do it?"

"Survival, B. Appreciation. Love. He gave it all. But you wouldn't understand."

"I know he loved you. I can't understand how he could love anything, but I knew. I just wish I hadn't driven you away."

"I drove myself away. If I had been in your position, I would've gutted me too."

"Eight months, Faith. I lied when I said I forgot about you. I wanted to tell you how sorry I was�"

"Let it lie. It's done."

"What's going on?"

They turned around and saw Willow and Tara looking at them.

"Tara, right?" Buffy asked, trying to avoid the situation that had just developed.

"Uh huh. Hi." The girl responded.

"Buffy?" Willow asked.

Buffy turned to look at Faith, but the other slayer was already running off.

"Faith, wait!"

***

Buffy caught up with her at the side door of the gym. Faith watched the other two girls' approach slowly, and she put her hand on the door handle.

"I held a knife to her throat. I don't think we're gonna bond."

"Maybe�maybe not. But I'm not letting you leave. This is one of those choice moments, and I'm trying to help you make the right one. Let me."

Buffy stared at her, and Faith slowly took her arm off the door and brought it down to her side. Willow walked up, Tara behind her.

"Explain." The redhead said.

"I'm sorry?" Faith offered tentatively. "To you too." She looked at Tara.

"What did you say to her?"

"It's okay." Tara said putting her hand on Willow's shoulder.

"No it's not!" She's�"

"Telling the truth."

"Huh?" She looked at Tara quizzically.

"She is, Will." Buffy added.

"Look, I don't expect you to forgive me. I'm just sorry." Faith said. "I don't know much anymore. But I do know that."

Everyone was silent. Then Tara raised her hand. "Can I�ask you a question?"

"Sure." Faith sighed.

"What's five by five mean?"

They all smirked a little, and then Faith answered her. "I'll let you figure it out. I'm not 'it' anymore. I can tell you that."

"Oh."

"Well I can't speak for anyone else," Buffy started, "but if you let me, I'd like to help get you back there."

Buffy, Tara and Faith stared at Willow. The hacker/wicca couldn't handle the stares, and as much as she wanted to, she couldn't go against her nature. "As long as it doesn't involve sharp, metal objects, I'll help."

"It's gonna be hard, isn't it?" Faith asked.

"Probably." Buffy admitted.

"Fun factor?"

"Zero."

"I haven't given that lifestyle much of a shot. I'll give it a go. Cops?"

"We'll handle it." Willow said, referring to her and Tara.

"Ready for the first problem?" Buffy asked Faith.

"Shoot."

"My boyfriend."

"Oh�right. Ah, aren't sisters supposed to share?" Buffy had a disbelieving look. "Kidding, B. You know I'm sorry. I shouldn't have, but�I never, felt like�"

"It's�a start." Buffy looked at Willow and her friend. "You two coming?"

"Yeah." Willow said. "Tara?"

"Right behind you."

 

2
BEGINNING A NEW GAME (OR - WICKED COOL?)

Faith stood in her old apartment. Her loft. The one the Mayor had purchased for her. She was still upset that he was dead. He had been like a father to her. Sure he was evil, but he had always treated her well. Plus, he had this quirky, sometimes lame, sense of humor that grew on her. And thanks to him, she was addicted to milk.

But, after he ascended, she knew he wasn't the man who looked out for her. He had become a large, demon snake, whose number one priority was eating people. She knew Buffy had to kill him, and she was trying really hard to enforce her new self-policy. 'The past is the past. Let it lie.'

She took the Mayor's taped message for her, where he basically said she wouldn't be able to survive without him, as a challenge. If she could make it, it would show him just how determined she was, and maybe, just maybe, a part of him would be proud of her. No matter who was helping her with the surviving thing.

The apartment was in a shambles, and obviously hadn't been touched. The window smashed, bedspread on the floor, boxes�it had been a nice place once. But that, this, was in her past. She walked over to one of the boxes, and pulled out a dress. The pink dress. >From him.

Maybe she'd keep one thing, she thought, hugging the article of clothing to her chest.

"Wanna take anything?" Buffy asked, standing in the doorway.

"Not much. Too many bad -"

"Memories. Yeah. Did I mention how sorry I am?"

Faith turned around, a small smile on her face. "Enough so that I have to work to catch up."

"Hey," Buffy said reassuringly, "it's not a contest."

"Yeah, I know."

"What's that?" Buffy looked at the dress.

"Oh, um," Faith said folding the dress, "it was a gift."

"From�oh." Buffy didn't know if she'd ever understand the Mayor or his relationship with Faith, but she could tell it ran deep. "So�nothing else?"

"Oh! I don't know if it�s still�"

She ran off into the other room, and Buffy walked over to try and see what she was getting. Faith came back, a few minutes later, carrying a bag, and a gray box-thing. That was the only thing Buffy could think of to describe it.

"What's that?"

"Come on, B. You gotta know what this is." Buffy shook her head. "You poor, poor slayer girl. College freshman and you've never�" Now it was Faith who shook her head. "PlayStation."

"Play Station?"

"It plays video games? On CD?"

"Oh�right."

"We have some wicked serious gaming to do. Dreamcast come out yet?"

"For some reason the date 9-9-99 keeps popping into my head."

Buffy opened the door, and let Faith go past her out of the apartment.

"Damn. I gotta get to the mall then."

***

"Do you know what you're doing?" Xander asked Giles.

He and Willow were in Giles' house. After Buffy had talked to Giles, and Willow told him what she and Tara had done, in simple terms, a spell that made the cops "forget" who Faith was, and cleared her file. Some would argue, and they'd be correct, that Faith was being allowed to get away with murder.

But Giles wanted to help the girl. Prison wouldn't help her; it would just make things worse. Besides, Faith probably could escape anyhow. And she had killed under orders from the Mayor. And he saw how charismatic, how convincing, the man was first- hand. He was evil, but at the same time, the nicest person you'd ever meet.

Faith had been at a point last year, after she accidentally staked the Deputy Mayor and Wesley had tried to take her to England without explanation, without caring, where she was extremely vulnerable. Very scared. And the Mayor had offered her something they couldn't. Though they wished they could have. Especially Buffy.

Stability. Safety. A place in life without having to feel second.

Buffy, he knew, had tried very hard to assure Faith that she was needed. Liked. Welcome into the group. The difference between Buffy and the Mayor was that to Faith, Buffy didn't really need her help, her friendship, because Buffy already had that. She felt like a pity case.

While the Mayor, didn't have anybody. Allan had died, and Trick was dust. He was alone, and probably worried that his plans for ascension were nearly ruined. He must have reached out to Faith, Giles reasoned, and she had been drawn to it immediately. He had seen many people like her, and he still sympathized with her.

If he said he still wasn't a little afraid, it would've been a lie. But Buffy had assured him that Faith wanted to rebuild her life and correct her mistakes. He had been reckless like her once. Maybe that was why he was so quick to help. And as long as she was willing, and Buffy was sure, he was willing to give her a place to stay. That's what had Xander all wound up.

"I know perfectly well what I'm doing. She can't stay with Buffy because she's not a student, Joyce is still rather skeptical, and Faith has no means of income. I could use the company, actually."

"The company of a homicidal maniac? I still don't get how you could let her off the hook, Will."

"There was no hook released. But she doesn't have the�'eye look' thing�anymore. She needs help. She wants it. Doesn't mean I like her, just that I know she does." Willow said.

"Maybe she's acting the whole 'I want help routine.' She's good at that."

"Look, we've all got reasons to be wary, but um, are you sure you don't have other reasons for being apprehensive?" Giles asked.

"No�I think the fact that she nearly almost cut off circulation to my lungs is good enough."

"So it has nothing to do with her being the first person you had sex with and you feeling insecure because she kicked you out so fast?" Willow asked, bitterness in her voice.

"Thanks for boiling it down, Will. Man, am I glad Anya's not here."

"I think I might have a solution." Giles offered.

"What?"

"Give her a chance, and talk to her."

"But that makes too much sense."

"Oh, right. I forgot who I was talking to."

"Hey!"

***

Buffy and Faith had gone to the campus, so Buffy could give her the real tour. They were heading off now, to go to Giles'. They walked down the steps, Faith talking about her hidden passion.

"But there's this one move you can do, and BAM! Guy ain't getting' up." Faith said thrusting her arm up for emphasis. "You gotta try it."

"How exactly do you do it again?"

"You face the guy," Faith thought a moment, "hit right twice, then square, square circle."

"They make it so simple. So what's with the obsession over this stuff?"

"You really wanna know?"

"Wouldn't ask if I didn't."

"It was kind of an escape. Course back when I started, all they had was Pong on Atari, but still�it gave me something to do. It was better than�"

"Better than what?" Buffy urged.

Faith was hesitant, and before she could get an answer out, Riley ran over, cutting them off.

"Buffy, can I�" He saw Faith then, and his eyes widened, then narrowed. "Hello."

"Hey." She looked at Buffy, and pointed her thumb over to the side. "I'll just�go hang."

"I'll be there in a sec." Buffy told her.

"No, it's cool. Take your time." Faith backpedaled, leaving them alone.

Buffy turned to Riley, however reluctantly. She really wanted to talk with Faith. "What's going on?"

"Shouldn't I be asking you that?"

Buffy had to think. "Faith is -"

"I thought you told me she was dangerous. That she hurt you. What's the deal?"

"It's complicated."

"Explain it to me."

She looked back at Faith. "This is something that I have to do alone. She isn't a threat, if that's what you're worried about."

"That's not what I meant. If I've�is this because of what -?"

"It has nothing to do with...we're fine." She assured him, squeezing his hand. "She just needs my attention right now."

"What changed your mind?"

"I got a taste of what it's like for her, and I don't want her to have to go back to that."

"Then I'm sure you know what you're doing. I hope you�help her."

"Me too."

***

As Faith was waiting Buffy to come over, she felt very alone. Did the Mayor know her or what? She was feeling somewhat better about herself, but now that she was starting to build friendships again, she was surprised how dependent she was becoming on them. And for the first time in her life, she didn't see that as a bad thing.

"Faith?"

The slayer came out of her thoughts, and realized Tara was standing near her trying to get her attention. "Sorry. I was spacing. What's up?"

"Nothing. Are you�going to see Willow?"

"We're going to Giles'. She's probably there."

"Oh�okay."

"You wanna come with or something?"

"I don't wanna get in the way."

"Hey, what I said before? Stick is good, but I don't have a problem with people who drive automatic. Less complicated anyway." Tara blushed just as Buffy sprinted over. "Everything five by five?"

"Is that like a slaying term?" Tara asked, still trying to figure out the meaning.

Buffy smiled at Faith, then displayed her hand, her five fingers completely outstretched, to the two girls. "The fivest. Hi Tara. And your guess is as good as mine."

"Hi Buffy."

"Looking for Will?" Tara nodded. "Come with us."

"Thanks."

"No problem. So you been hanging out long?"

***

Xander was pacing as the door of the house opened, and the three girls entered. Giles came out of the kitchen, and Willow rose from the couch. She smiled wider when she saw Tara.

"Look who we found." Buffy said.

"Did you get my message?" Willow asked Tara.

"Uh huh. I was just walking, and I saw them and�"

"Well it's cool you came." Willow looked at Buffy and Faith. "Did you get everything you needed?"

"Bare essentials. Speaking of, where's the TV?" Faith said, carrying her bag of PlayStation supplies with her. "Here we go. Score." She knelt down and proceeded to unpack.

Willow walked up to Buffy. "How is she?"

"Good. Still got a lot ahead of her, I think, but she's on her way." Buffy decided it was time to stop talking about Faith, because she could tell Willow was just being polite. "Tara's nice. She seems to think highly of you. Not that I blame her."

Willow was beaming now, grateful for the change of subject. "So you like her?"

"Yeah. You should bring her around to hang out with us more."

"I think she'd really like that." Willow said, and then walked over to Tara. "You gotta see some of the books Giles has."

***

Buffy switched her attention to Xander who was watching Faith cautiously as she tried to hook up the game machine. Buffy walked over to him, and lightly elbowed him in the stomach. "Go be nice."

Giles came over to Buffy, as Xander made his way over to Faith.

"Is she all set?" He asked.

"As much as she's going to be. Thanks for giving her a place."

"I'm happy to do it. She's thanked me several times already."

"So you can see she's trying."

"Yes she is, and that's a big step in the right direction. Just one question."

"Fire away."

"What exactly is she doing to my television?"

***

Faith had the machine all ready to go, and was searching through her game library. Xander walked up behind her, and had not yet noticed what she was doing.

"How are you?" He asked. 'Did you kill anyone today?' was his silent question.

"Xander, hey. I'm hanging in there."

"Got a girlfriend now."

"Yeah, that girl, right?"

"Anya."

"Very sexually active."

"Was that a question?"

She found the game she wanted and opened the lid. "A fact."

"Is there a problem with that?"

"No, it's good exercise. Builds the muscles."

Xander had been beating around the bush, and finally just blurted out his real question. "Was I�good?"

"Good?"

"Ya know, when we�"

"Oh�well�" She pushed the 'POWER' button and started to plug in the controllers. "I didn't fake it."

"Really?" Xander asked, suddenly feeling a lot of pride.

"Swear to God. Didn't I say that a lot? Anyway, I'm sure you're making her very satisfied." With that, Faith had reassured his manhood and apologized, and that was good enough for him. "Wanna play?"

Xander had to clear his throat, and then he looked down at what she had been doing. He suddenly devolved several years. "You have a PlayStation? Count me in. What you got?" He asked, lowering himself to the floor.

"Tekken 3's in now. Not the latest, but still a goodie. Hey, B! Willow! Tara!"

Buffy came over first. "So this is it, huh?"

"Time for me to teach you." Faith said.

***

Several hours later, they were all crowded around the small TV, two unlikely combatants engaged in battle. Everyone was cheering them on.

"Sweep the leg!" Willow said.

"No, jab! Jab!" Xander said.

"They're both wrong. Jump kick!" Buffy said.

And in the next the next second the match was over. Giles handed his controller over to Buffy, and Tara was silently enjoying her victory.

"That was bracing. Certainly improves hand-eye coordination." Giles said.

Xander checked his watch. "Damn, it's late. Gotta get home before my parents change the locks."

"I guess I should go too." Tara said.

"Oh! I'll walk you." Willow said rising up off the floor.

After quick good-byes, and promising to be careful, the three of them left. Giles got up as well.

"I think I'll call it a night. You two will be all right?"

"We're as independent as they come." Buffy said.

"Ditto." Faith said.

"Good night, then."

"Giles?"

"Yes?"

"Thanks for�giving me another chance. I know I�just�really appreciate it."

He smiled at her, and walked up the stairs. Faith turned to Buffy, then, afraid to ask, but she had to. "Do you have to split too?"

"No. I don't have classes tomorrow. You want me to stay?"

"You don't have to. Only if you want."

"You want the couch or the floor?"

Faith smiled slightly, and fiddled with the wire in the controller. "Um�my mom, she was a heavy drinker, and my dad would always come home and beat�hurt her. If I kept my mouth shut, I wouldn't get it after she did.

"But it was hard to just, you know, ignore. I needed something to distract me. The Atari was the thing that saved me most of the time. I�"

Buffy put her hand on Faith's back. She felt the other slayer tense, and then relax. She didn't want to force her to say any more, she knew it would all come out on its own eventually, or so she hoped.

"Wanna start a new game?" Buffy asked.

Faith was relieved Buffy hadn't pushed. It hurt enough just getting that out. It was good to have someone just�listen. "Yeah. I'm up for it."

 

3
DECISION POINT (OR - FIND THE FUN)

A vampire flew through the air, and landed face first on a stone bench. If he were still human, his jaw would have been busted open. Strong hands picked him up by his shirt collar; he was kneed in the gut, and tossed onto his back. A foot pushed down on his neck.

There was a second vampire. He was getting pushed back further and further, by multiple punches being directed at his face. He was close to his buddy now. His attacker kicked him forcefully in the chest, and sweeped his legs. The vampire twirled and landed on top of his friend.

Faith staked him, but the other one still laid there. He raised his head up.

"Adam is coming. He makes us stronger."

Buffy bent down, holding her stake above him. "Looks like he's still got a few bugs to work out, but we got the message. Thanks." She plunged the stake into his heart, and his ashes settled in the grass.

The two slayers high-fived.

"Man I missed this." Faith said, revved up.

An image entered Buffy's mind. An image from a night that still haunted her. A wave of guilt washed over her.

Man, I'm gonna miss this. Shoulda been there, B. Quite a ride.

She quickly shook it away and smiled at Faith.

"The chosen two back in action. I like this too."

They began the trek out of the cemetery.

"So who's this Adam guy, anyway?"

"I wouldn't exactly call him a guy. Half a guy, or maybe even a quarter guy. He's like a puzzle a five-year-old puts together. None of the pieces are supposed to fit, but somehow they do."

"You're not sayin' what I think you're sayin."

"What do you think I'm saying? If you think I'm saying he's a techno version of Frankenstein complete with floppy drive, super strength, and demon parts, you'd be right."

"Nope. Woulda been way off. Gone up against him?"

"And lost. Majorly. He is doing something to the vamps, cause they have seemed, I dunno, less afraid."

"Then he's just setting 'em up to get taken out. You and me, we'll rewire Frank the Next Generation, steal his vamp steroid pills, and toss him in the scrap heap."

"I like the way you think. Guys are at the Bronze. You got the energy?" Faith grinned at her.

Isn't it crazy how slaying always makes you hungry and horny?

Buffy grinned back at her. "Course you do."

"Long as I get food out of it, I'm in."

***

The Bronze was�well, the Bronze. It was the one thing that had stayed unchanged in the town. That, and the nightly "mysterious" deaths. Buffy and Faith entered the club, and spotted the gang over at a table. Riley was surprisingly also there.

As they approached, Willow got up off her stool and walked over to the bar. Faith shook her head and took a deep breath. Every time she saw Willow, if the girl could get away from her, she did. If she had to be around her she'd act polite, and nice, but she really didn't feel that way, and Faith knew that. She also knew the redhead's hatred towards her was completely justified. She had thought Willow to be her enemy, which was why she had had that daydream of shoving a blade through the girl's stomach. She had been wrong, and completely screwed everything up.

There was nothing she could say, to herself or to Willow, to make things right. Willow was the only one out of Buffy's circle of friends that she had truly wanted to hurt before, and that was for two reasons. The first being that Willow was everything, every quality, which Faith thought, she could never achieve. And the second being, that she was the one Buffy spent the most time with. She had been the one that Buffy needed.

Not Faith. Not the person in the same the line of work.

Faith was just beginning to understand that Buffy's friendship didn't have to be competed for. That the blonde valued, or had valued, she was still unsure of her place yet, her friendship just as much as the hacker's. She didn't hate Willow, though she had convinced herself she had at one point, because she couldn't deal with the rage she had inside her. She was working on it.

The truth of it was, she wanted Willow as a friend too. There weren't too many people in the world that would help you even though they despised you, and Faith could only imagine what Willow was like when she liked you. She wanted to know.

"How'd the slayage go?" Xander asked.

"All encountered vamps extinguished." Buffy said, going to sit on Riley's lap, and kissing him. "Hey you. Been here long?"

"Long enough to be surprised at the amount of military knowledge Xander has."

"Yeah, who needs years of military training? All you have to do is buy a plastic gun from an evil magician and let him weave his evil magic."

"I'll make sure to mention that to my superiors."

"Speaking of," Buffy said, "did you find anything out?"

"Everyone's got the military code of silence policy down to a 'T'. How about Adam?"

"Nope. Some of his recruits though." She got up and reached for his hand. "Enough work. Dance with me."

Riley rose, and they started to walk out to the dance floor.

"You kids behave." Faith said. Buffy simply rolled her eyes at the remark. Faith turned to Xander. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure. My schedule's wide open."

"Why'd you -"

"Forgive you so fast?"

"How'd you know I was gonna say that?"

"Cause I saw you watch Will leave, and I figured the topic of 'forgiveness' had to be on your mind somewhere. You know, seeing as she still�doesn't."

"And you became the King of Deduction, when?"

"Well, when you're a jobless, non-college, living in his parents basement type of guy like me, you tend to spend most of your time learning to understand the human condition."

"I see. So�why did�you take me off your hate list?"

"I'm a male."

"Glad you're secure in your gender type."

"My point, 'O Quick to Be Sarcastic One', is that generally we're all talk. About women mainly. But when confronted with the opposite sex, we tend to cave."

"So the only reason you forgave me is because you were afraid of what I might've done to you." She stared at the table. "I'm just kidding myself. It's my fault. Once somebody labels ya evil, it'll always stick."

"Okay, so maybe the original reason was out of fear, but I wouldn't have just said 'Hey I forgave you cause I thought you might kill me if I didn't' if I thought you were evil."

"Then explain it to me."

He looked into her eyes. 'The look' wasn't there anymore. Willow was right.

"None of us think you're evil. Willow knows, we all know, you're sorry and want to be a good guy�gal again. But forgiveness and believing somebody to be evil are two totally unrelated things. For me, it was a little easier.

"I've got rage, I've been disliked many, many times, and I know what it's like to feel left out. But I was in a position where I had support to fall back on, so I wasn't tempted to take the other extreme route."

"But I had all of you there, and I still snapped."

"Aha, but you didn't think you did. Big difference. And that's our fault too. By the time we tried to reach out for you�well, a peaceful solution wasn't an option was it?"

All that killing and you're afraid to die?

"No, I was really messed up then."

"Course, then there was the killing�"

"They didn't really register. Kinda get numb to 'em."

"Really?"

'Go ahead. Say you would lay down on your bed alone, and cry until there were no more tears left, and you sank deeper and deeper.'

"I'm thirsty. Wicked hungry too."

'You're hopeless. How do you ever expect to be friends with these people if you don't -'

"Shut up." Faith muttered to herself as she headed to the bar.

***

Buffy and Riley moved slowly on the dance floor. He could tell she was distracted.

"Hey�you okay?"

"I'm just dandy." She laughed softly at her own use of the bizarre word. "I've been absentee girlfriend lately, haven't I? Sorry."

"We both have our own lives. But I've missed you."

"Quality 'us' time soon, promise. Just had a lot on my mind lately. The Initiative, Adam�and that is such a lame name, you know?"

"Faith's in there too, right?"

"You caught my avoidance, huh?"

"She not -"

"No, that's just the thing. It's been great. Slaying with her, talking, hanging�it's guilt, really."

"Guilt over�"

"What I did to her, what we did to each other, what Xander and Willow went through�she's forgiven me, and I've forgiven her, but I don't know if�"

"What? You can talk to me."

"But you're not exactly impartial when it comes to her are you?"

"I'm trained to be."

"You have a recent track record of not following the rules, remember?" He gave her a look. "But I'll try and explain."

"That's all I ask."

"I think it has something to do with us both being slayers. Even when we fought, I didn't want to hurt her. And the way she talks now, I know she didn't really want to either. Okay, so maybe she was jealous, but she was just following orders."

Riley flinched slightly. 'So that's what following orders leads to.'

"Then when I had to�do what I did to her�I wanted to be glad she was down and out. But I wasn't."

"Family."

"Huh?"

"You don't want to turn against family. I�know the feeling." His recent quarrels with his Initiative team members sprang to mind.

"See? But the gang�they're family too. And I feel like I'm trying to fit Faith in where she doesn't want to be, and where the gang doesn't want her to be. I just want them to understand."

"Not everybody is forgiving as you. Time heals all wounds, though, right?"

"Or makes the wound bigger. Then there's infection, and amputation, and�I know she hurt her, and I don't want to push either of them�"

"Who are we talking about now?"

***

Willow sat at the bar, thinking. She had briefly considered ordering a beer, but her previous experimentation with the stuff had led to Buffy/Spike smoochage, so�no, that was not a good idea. She needed to figure out what side she was going to come down on, because she had been in the middle. Like Faith or Hate Faith? Tricky, tricky question.

How was she supposed to like someone who had held her at knife tip? Who had used her friend? Who had held her at knife tip? That was a recurring question. Faith was trying really hard, she wasn't trying to kill her, and Willow had heard something that she never thought she would hear the dark-haired slayer say.

I'm sorry.

Faith had apologized to her. For everything. And it was sincere. Willow was floored by that. Mostly because she had filed her under the 'evil psychotic' category, and generally those people didn't tend to apologize for what they did. She had helped Faith with the cops because, well, she couldn't not help people who really wanted it. It was a curse.

Spike being a good example. The vampire had tried to bite her all those months ago. To change her, and who knows what else, but her first instinct was not to run away from the demon who had kidnapped her and tortured her friends, but to comfort him, and allow him to try and bite her again a half hour later. She eventually came to her senses, but that was not the point.

"Don't forget that you stopped him from staking himself, Willow." She told herself.

And the difference between Spike and Faith? Spike wasn't sorry for anything he did. Faith was. Everyone else forgave her already. Xander, Giles�and Tara seemed to think she was okay. Tara's opinions seemed to have a lot of importance to Willow lately, and she was still struggling to figure out why. Where was she? Oh, forgiveness. Buffy had forgiven Faith too.

That was the core of her dislike of the other slayer. Right before Faith's doublecross, Buffy had what seemed to be every waking moment with her sister in combat. Ah, there it was. The green eyed monster. Buffy was her friend. Buffy came to her with problems. Faith wasn't supposed to stay, carve a place.

Kendra had been different. Kendra was 'Miss anti-social'. She had never tried to join the gang, spend time with them�and Willow just realized how selfish and mean she was being.

"Kendra died, and you're�what am I saying?" Willow asked herself.

"You okay?"

Who said that? Willow turned her head. It was Faith.

"Fine, thanks."

"Listen, I never really, thanked you�about the cops."

"You're welcome, but I only did it because -"

"Because Buffy asked you to. I know. Still, you didn't have to."

"Is that it?"

"Yeah, that's it." Willow began to move. "I know you hate me. I've never seen anybody so focused on Tekken before. You must have really wanted to kick my ass."

"I have my reasons."

"Yeah, I guess you do. I wanted her friendship just as much as yours you know. I'd never met another slayer before her. She had cool friends, a kick life; I just wanted to be a part of it. I blew it, but now I got a freebie.

"And I really don't want to screw it up this time. Just know�I'm not trying to take your guys personal space, and�I'm done."

Willow just stood still for a second, and then walked away.

***

"Oh, this is more like it."

"Whoever you are, I'm not in the mood, so�" Faith turned around on the barstool and looked up at Spike. "You."

"So this is the infamous Faith. This body suits you, it really does."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well, Buffy playing Miss Slut, didn't seem to fit, but this body was built for it." She flipped him the finger. "Little Missy's got a 'tude, has she? You know, I never saw Red just up and walk away from somebody like that. You must have really done a number on her."

"Is there a point to this, Limp Fang?"

"You're just asking for it, aren't you?"

"And I bet you wish you could give it to me. Too bad, huh?"

Spike had to admit that she was good at finding the weak points. He just had to keep his rage contained. "You really think you'll ever be a part of the Scooby troupe? Maybe ride in the Mystery Machine? Red's got in for you. The only reason they're tolerating you is cause they're scared."

"Buffy may have a problem with dusting your ass, but I don't. Just thought I'd get that out there."

"You're trying to hurt me, and I'm sure I'll get all teary-eyed any minute. You got the darkness in you, girl. It's only a matter of time before you lose control. And if you think they're gonna bloody save you from crossing that line, think again. They'll kill you."

"One last chance."

Spike held up his hands. "I'm gone. But, I know who you are. Trying to bury it can be unhealthy."

***

Buffy came over to the table, and saw that Willow was the only one sitting there.

"Xander went home, and Faith's over at the bar." Willow said, answering Buffy's silent question.

Buffy sat down. "Riley said to say goodnight."

"Oh."

"Willow�about Faith�"

"You can't make me like her, Buffy."

"I'm not trying to. But I made her hurt, Will. You don't know what it feels like to plunge a knife into someone's stomach. A person. It's a sick feeling. Disgusting actually. I hurt her for you, Xander, Wesley, Angel, Lester, and whoever else.

"I know she did horrible things, but I just can't hurt her anymore. She doesn't like who she is, and that's hurting her enough. Plus the guilt. I can't begin to understand how she made you feel, and I haven't forgotten what she did, so I'm going to say one last thing."

"What?"

"You hate Faith�kill her."

"Um�"

"I'm serious. She'd probably let you too. It'd be over and done with. So, just do it."

"Come on, Buffy. Why are you saying this?"

"You're my best friend, Will. And if you think Faith is getting in the way�hell, use a gun. I won't stop you. Because we're friends. I'd always watch your back. Nobody is gonna throw my best friend in jail. It doesn't matter what you did, or do. We'll -"

"I get it, okay?"

"Do you?"

"Faith's a slayer, and you were, are close, and no matter what she did you'd always watch out for her. Because you couldn't not want to help her. Some things just go deep."

"No matter what. Just like I'd do for you. You and Faith are both really important to me. Equally important. I'd never leave either of you out of anything."

"You mean you'd stab me in the gut if I went temporarily crazy too?"

"Anything for you, Will."

Willow smirked. "Faith is still -"

"A sore spot. I get it. I just wanted to make sure you didn't think I would ever ditch you, or not know how you feel. I'll always be your friend. And I wanted to try and help you understand why me and Faith�well, I know I sounded a little nutso, but did you understand at all?"

"I just need to think."

"Then I'll shut up, and let you deal. I'm going to the dorm. Wanna come?"

"I think I'll stick around a little longer."

"Okay. Be careful coming back."

"I will."

***

Faith had thought about what Spike said for about two seconds. It had gotten to her, though. She knew she had a dark side, and that wasn't something she could help. Part of her bought into what he was said, because it was much easier to hate then to work for friendship. Her problem had been misdirecting her hate towards the wrong things.

Then she remembered how her last fling with evil had turned out, and she remembered what he was. If Buffy or the gang were going to turn on her, she'd know. Not some impotent British vampire with a Billy Idol complex. After he left the Bronze, things had become clear. She was never one to take her time thinking things over. She decided to tail him to the crypt.

She entered a few minutes after he did, and he sensed her immediately.

"Took my words to heart, did you?"

"Absolutely."

"How'd you find me?"

"Undead Yellow Pages. Damn, there are a lot of Dracula's in there."

"Slayers. Always punnin'. So tell Ol' Spike what he can do for you."

"Well, I've been thinking about what you said. And you're right. I tend to enjoy sex, and killing comes easily."

"As it should, luv."

"Whatever. Anyway, what they don't tell you is how bad it feels afterwards. Killing comes easy, and pain comes even easier. That's all I felt when I went after people. But I kept telling myself, the approval, the praise, for doin' it was worth it. But it really wasn't."

"How come I don't like where this going?"

"So, in weighing my choices, go all rogue again, hurt them before they have a chance to hurt me, I remembered what you said before."

"Before?"

"I looked a little different then, so I'll give you a sec to think. I make decisions pretty quickly."

She walked down the steps. Spike backed away. "Shi�" He whispered.

"Got it yet? Good. So there I was, and you were getting piss drunk and practically begging for attention. Cause you can't do anything anymore. Can't feed, kill, you're probably an outcast to all your demon pals too." She stepped closer. "But my revelation, you'll love this."

"I'm sure."

"Defanged vamp with a hatred for Buffy tries to get me to turn on her. Make me think she'll turn on me. I'm not the brightest person in the world, but I put it together. You want me to kill Buffy for you. Am I right?"

"More or less, yeah."

"Kill Buffy for you�kill Buffy for you�huh. Don't think so. She's been nothing but good to me."

"That's fine. What's that term? 'My bad?' Shouldn't have brought it up."

"I'm not finished yet." Spike didn't like the look in her eye. "You want to see my dark side, Billy? Cause you tried to use me. I hate being used. I really�really�hate it."

She backed him against the wall. "Sorry?"

"Wanna know what the difference is between killing a human and a demon is? There's no pain afterwards. Only intense satisfaction. Almost as good as sex. And you're right. Holding back would be unhealthy."

That's when she punched him. Hard in the face. Really hard. He dropped immediately, and she sat over top of him, hitting his face repeatedly.

"NO." Punch. "BODY." Punch. "USES." Punch. "ME." Punch. She stopped when she drew blood, and stood up. "You got that? I've got it too good. I know Buffy wants me around, and I'm not gonna let asshole losers like you start screwing me over.

"If you ever try it again, I'll get more creative. If I ever see you coming near�I'll kill you. Got it?"

His coughing up of his own blood was his only response, and she ran from the crypt.

***

Buffy was disturbed from her cramming attempts by loud banging on the door of her and Willow's dorm room. She got off the bed quickly, and opened it. Faith ran in quickly, falling on the bed.

"Faith? What happened?"

"You�you'd be honest with me if I asked you a question, right?

"Yeah. I would."

"Do you think I'd hurt you? I mean�"

Buffy sat down on the edge of the bed, and shook her head. "No." Faith sighed out of relief. "Is that�"

"Blood? Yeah. Let's just say that William the Bloody's name really fits him now."

"You beat up Spike?"

"He had it coming."

"No argument here. If you hadn't, I probably would have. But why?"

"He was trying to mess with my head. I didn't like it." She was holding it in. Everything.

"He's good at that. You can�you know." Faith shook her head. Buffy had suddenly felt a need to see what she did. She had never seen the results of what she did to her fellow slayer. "I hurt you though."

"You got the job done. We covered this. Hatchet buried, B."

"Can I -" Faith knew what she was talking about. She lifted her tanktop up a little, and a faint scar was on her stomach. "God, it's still�"

"It's almost gone."

Unlike Faith, Buffy had no problem letting tears fall. When she did, Faith wasn't sure what to do. Comforting wasn't her area of expertise. Buffy did it for her, and rested her head on Faith's shoulder.

"All right," Buffy said through tears, "mutual decision, mutual promise, right now. We'll never hurt each other again." She wiped her eyes. "Willingly. Now possession, magick, and other supernatural things�well�"

"Promise."

Faith saw Willow slowly enter the room.

***

Willow came into the room, and saw the two slayers having a moment. She caught Faith's eyes, and expected to see a look that said, 'I won this round. Better luck next time.' But she didn't see that all.

Faith's eyes were asking her to come in. To help. They were unsure. Confused. Willow shut the door, and made her way over to where they sat.

Where Buffy sat, and where a person she was starting to like, possibly even in a 'friend way', sat as well.

 

4
PAIN OF THE PAST (OR - ALL MEN ARE BEASTS)

Faith stood in the middle of the park. It was bright, sunny, and peaceful. She saw Xander, Willow and Giles sitting over at a picnic table. They were calling her over, and she saw Buffy come up to her. The blonde reached for her hand.

"Come on, we have plenty of food. Don't tell me you're not hungry."

"I'm coming. Just thinking."

"About?"

"How long this'll last."

"We'll make it last. I've got your back." Buffy started to look around. Something wasn't right. Faith felt it too. "Hurry."

The sky changed. Over by the gang, the sun shined brightly. Past where they stood, the sky had darkened. They were in the middle. The two slayers tried to go back to their friends, but they couldn't move. Out of the darkness, a figure emerged.

"Faith, I told you never to leave me. Now look what you've gone and done. You have to do the right thing, my dear. I can't wait forever." The Mayor said.

"I am doing the right thing."

"I was hoping you wouldn't say that." Buffy had had enough. She rushed over to the dark side of the park, ready to attack him.

"Buffy, no!"

The Mayor changed forms. A large snake was in his place. Also out of the darkness, came Spike, who held Buffy still for the hungry beast. Faith ran to try and save her, but as soon as she got close enough, Spike released Buffy, and threw her back into the light.

Buffy screamed to her. "Faith! Get out!" She couldn't help her now.

Faith struggled, as the Mayor-Snake dipped down, his jaws opened wide.

"You belong here, Faith. Stay with us."

"No!"

 

"NO!"

Two slayers screamed simultaneously, though both at different places. At Giles' house, Faith's scream awoke Giles, who was very startled. In the dorm, it awoke Willow, who was instantly at her friend's side.

***

"You're sure you're all right?" Giles asked Faith some fifteen minutes later.

She sat at the table, picking at a scone. "Just a dream. Nothing."

"Possibly, but in my experience, a slayer's dreams are more often than not, prophetic."

"Nah, I think it's more my own personal demons."

"You say that so casually." He came from the kitchen carrying a kettle. "Tea?"

"It's a gift. I'll pass."

"I'm here to listen if you should ever need it."

"And major appreciation for that." Faith got up, and walked over to the stereo. "Mind?"

"Nothing too mind numbing?"

"Reforming Slayer's honor."

She turned on the power, and a song was just beginning. She waited to see what it was.

(When you look into a mirror
Do you like what's looking at you
Now that you've seen your true reflections
What on earth are you gonna do

(Find some inspiration It's down deep inside of you
Amend your situation
Your whole life is ahead of you
Your whole life is ahead of you

(Remember the time you hung out with the boys now
Remember the things you used to say
I thought by now you'd be the president
But after all that was yesterday

(You've had time to go out in the world now
But you chose to run away
People ask you what your doin' now
You don't even know what to say

(You think life is like a movie
Where it all works out in the end
I think life is like a dessert
Where does it go where does it begin

(When you look into a mirror
Do you like what's looking at you
Now that you've seen your true reflections
What on earth are you gonna do

(Find some inspiration
It's down deep inside of you)

She just stood still after it was over. How come everything just seemed to connect sometimes? The dream�and now this. Did she like what she saw? She had the inspiration, but was her reflection changing? Was she changing? Running her hands through her hair, she closed her eyes, then turned off the stereo and faced Giles.

"Too early for music, don'tcha think?"

***

The college gym had become the slayers' training spot. They were able to schedule to have an hour a day, so no one would interrupt them. Well, everyone except the gang, and its new member, who were just observing and speaking amongst themselves. Tara, Willow, and Xander.

Buffy and Faith were sparring with staffs. Their bows clashed.

"Where's the Bo', B?" Faith asked her.

"You really have to learn my whole name, cause that just sounded really funny." She brought the staff to a vertical position, and Faith matched it. "Actually, if you make the vamps fall over cause they're laughing hysterically, that could be a bonus."

"So are you gonna answer my question sometime in the next millennium or what?"

"He's -" Faith tried to sweep her legs, but Buffy jumped up, missing it. "Teaching."

Faith stopped abruptly, and Buffy was able to knock the staff out of her hands.

"A teacher?"

"He was my old Psych professor's TA. He has to take over until they get a replacement."

"How'd she bite it?"

"She's Adam's Dr. Frankenstein."

"Damn. Harsh. Wait, is that the name of the monster or the guy?"

"I�don't know. Anyway, that's what you get for messing with the dark, I guess."

They both thought it was a good idea to stop. They both knew they had shared the dream, though they didn't say much about it. Now wasn't the time anyway, because they were both still a little freaked by it.

"It's the name of the guy who made him," Xander said, "and is the sweatfest over?"

"'Fraid so, Xand."

"There you are!" Anya said loudly, entering the gym.

"Just in time too." Faith smirked.

***

It was the nightly patrol. This time they were patrolling campus, thinking that's where Adam would stick close to. This time, Willow and Tara were with them, walking a few feet behind. Xander was with Anya, apparently "making up for lost time", and they didn't want to go there. Not even Faith.

"You really wanna be out here?" Willow asked Tara.

"You talk about it all the time. If this is something you do, I wanna see...you know, be with you." Tara realized how that last part sounded. "Be with you when you do this." She looked away, trying not to hyperventilate.

Willow smiled. "I like that you want to, really, but it's dangerous."

"It's not that safe for you either, is it?"

"Well�yeah. But Buffy watches out for me. That and I use my resolve face till she caves."

"I heard that." Buffy called back.

"And now I have someone to watch over. I don't wanna see you hurt." Willow whispered, grabbing Tara's hand. "We'll be careful, and I won't let you be."

"I know. I trust you."

***

Faith looked back at the two girls. "There's not many people who can border 'cutesy' and the 'get a room' phase as well as they can. Not that I'd know much about how relationship phases work, but - "

Buffy had been lost in thought, absentmindedly twirling a stake. "Hmmm? What are you talking about?"

"You mean you don't�? Nothing."

"Oh. So�the dream."

"Definitely a bitch."

"It had an unpleasant quality to it, yeah. Do you think that's what we're both scared of?"

"Huh?"

"You know. Me not being able to save you from something and you not�being able to save yourself? I mean, I don't think it was prophecy-related. Because of what happened with Spike he's been on our minds, and�"

"Dream psychology and slaying really don't mix, B." Buffy looked down at the ground. Faith cursed under her breath. "Hey, you know I'm not exactly the 'lay on a couch, pour out my feelings' type of girl." 'Or am I and I just don't know it?'

"Yeah. But I had the dream too, and I just thought that we could try and figure it out. Leaving things unsettled isn't my style."

"I�when we're done�" Faith trailed off, her eyes widening. "You can tell me why you totally played down this thing."

"What thing�damn."

They stared at Adam, and he stared right back.

***

Buffy risked a glance back at them, and Faith's look was a little more forceful.

"What's that?" Tara asked, pointing up ahead.

"Something we run away from." Willow said.

"But -"

"This is also what I do. I go get help."

"Who?"

"Giles, or Xander, or Riley�just come on."

***

"I wore him out. I think it was the tying to the bedpost." Anya said.

She and Xander had come to Giles house. She was currently explaining to Giles the details of their latest "go in the hay". Xander was sitting on the steps, his head in his hands. Giles wasn't fairing much better.

"Why do you insist on always coming here directly after�God, I can't say it." Giles said.

"You mean after the orgasms?"

Giles rubbed his eyes. "Forget it. Please."

"Well I have to tell somebody. The whole point of making somebody have good orgasms is to make others jealous."

"Jealous? I'm rather revolted actually. Most humans do not go into detail about their sexual exploits. Normally, they light a cigarette and keep things to themselves."

"Where's the fun in that? And cigarettes aren't good for health."

"And you're not good for mine." Giles muttered. He looked over at Xander, trying to understand why the boy was just satisfied�he stopped that train of thought immediately.

"I don't think he wants us here. We should leave."

Xander jumped up off the steps. "Oh thank God."

Just then, the front door opened, and Tara and Willow came bursting in. They were both out of breath.

"Good�you're here�" Willow panted.

"Willow, what is it?" Giles asked.

"Buffy�Faith�went�Riley's�not there�campus�bad�Adam�"

"Buffy and Faith are on campus and they're in trouble. Adam's there." Tara cleared up.

Willow nodded quickly. Xander ran to the chest of weapons, and pulled out the blaster.

"Stay here." Giles told the three girls.

"We can do a protection spell." Tara offered.

"Anything that might help is a good idea."

Anya went up to Xander and kissed him quickly, and then he and Giles were out the door.

***

Buffy and Faith circled Adam cautiously. He had not made a move, but was merely watching them. Studying them. Normally Faith would rush in and attack, but most bad guys weren't as calm as he seemed to be. She couldn't predict what he was going to do, and her Slayer "sixth sense" was telling her to be cautious. Buffy was glad Faith was following it for once.

"So, Adam, where's your flunkies?" Buffy asked.

"Flunkies?" He appeared to think a second. "Ah. The vampires. I have no desire to waste a resource. You would easily end their existence, would you not?"

"Yep. Can see you're still big on the learning and science experiments."

He appeared to think once more. "Yes. Buffy Anne Summers. You possess strength that others of your species do not. Enemy of vampires. A Slayer. An intriguing being."

"That's me. Have you met Faith? We're in the same business."

"Whoever did the rush job on you has to go back to the drawing board." Faith said.

"A sarcastic remark meant to increase anger. I am unaffected."

"But I try so hard."

"I was informed of your presence. My learning process is nearly complete. But I must know something. A question plagues me."

"What's that?"

"Faith Adams. Eighteen human years. Conceived in Boston by Jack and Christine." Faith paled, and Buffy just held her breath.

"Father arrested for spousal abuse the following year and convicted in conjunction with possession of narcotics.

"At age five police were called to your residence for a domestic disturbance. You were found in the corner, shattered alcoholic containers surrounding you, facial lacerations and cigarette burns on your forearm.

"Taken to a hospital, several hours later, doctors were shocked to learn that all your wounds had healed. Mother agreed to attend meetings and seek counseling in order to retain custody.

"A year later your father was released on probation and forced to go to a drug treatment center. He returned home for a period of time, and six months after his release, he proceeded to strangle your mother terminating her life. Police arrived just before your father did the same to you."

Faith was shaking, and couldn't move. Buffy knew she had to make some kind of move. This was too much.

"You were placed in an orphanage. Caretakers noted that you were frightened, sometimes hostile. At the age of fourteen you had tried to run away several times, succeeding temporarily, for months at a time. Authorities often found you in bars or street corners, offering yourself.

"They repeatedly returned you, despite your attempts to stay away. They did not recommend you for a foster home, or adoption. Psychologists recorded deep emotional scarring, and they couldn't stop you from trying to take your own life.

"At fifteen, despite objections, a woman chose to adopt you, and strangely, there is no more record of your existence after that point."

"That woman was my watcher, you bastard." Faith said.

"Bastard? Hmm�fatherless son. That's an appropriate description."

Buffy was a few feet behind him.

"What's your question?" Faith asked.

"I know all about you, yet I can't understand the reason you continue to live. Is it not rather pointless?" Faith was clenching her fists. "My question upsets you? Interesting."

Buffy ran, and jumped on his back, grabbing around his neck area. Faith's attention had been focused on Adam, so she had not seen where Buffy went. Adam flung her off, and she hit a tree.

"Buffy! No!"

Faith charged him and he grabbed her easily by the neck.

"Faith! Get -" Buffy yelled, and tried to run to help, but something pulled her back.

"Your life has been full of negative emotion. Humans, I've learned, struggle with such feelings. Losses, grief, pain. The right thing to do would be to end it. Would you like me to?"

Faith struggled, her legs kicking wildly. "I'm doing the right thing. I don't need the easy way out."

"What do you need?" Adam squeezed harder. "Air? Friendship? Lov -"

***

Adam was cut off, as he felt an electrical blast hit him from behind. He dropped Faith, who was gasping for air. Seemingly out of nowhere, a team of commandos, in full gear, came out of the shadows and surrounded him. Buffy ran in, and pulled Faith out quickly.

All the men aimed at him, firing, but except for being mildly jolted, he continued to walk. As he reached a man standing in his way, he released a skewer from his arm, which went directly through the man's heart.

"Fall back!" One of them yelled.

They broke out of their containment formation, and Adam continued to walk.

"I can learn no more here." He said.

One of the men waved his hand, and four commandos disappeared, silently following Adam. Three others picked up their dead friend, and vanished into the darkness as well. All except one, who rushed over to Buffy and Faith. He took off his facemask.

It was Riley, and as soon as Faith saw that it was him, she bounced up and grabbed him by the shirt.

"How. Did. He. Know." She said, stated each word slowly, and angrily.

"Professor Walsh must have downloaded files into his brain."

"But you didn't know about slayers until me." Buffy said.

"No, we didn't. The Initiative has files on anyone who's ever been in Sunnydale. No matter who it is. It's policy handed down by the higher ups."

Faith let go of his uniform, but still glared at him.

"Why didn't you tell us?" Buffy asked.

"I wasn't sure if...not until I saw."

"Like hell." Faith said.

"How'd you know he was here?" Buffy asked.

"I was down there searching through the computers when Graham spotted him walking on campus. Since I was there, and I'm commanding officer, I led the team. I'm just glad we were in time."

"Good thing you were." Faith turned and walked away somewhat. "Later, okay?"

Riley nodded, and walked off. Neither he nor the two slayers saw the person watching off to the side.

***

Buffy went over to Faith, and they both knew the dream discussion wasn't necessary anymore. Faith couldn't hide her past anymore, either. She wanted to remain stone-faced, and tough, but as soon as she caught Buffy's eyes and comfort they were offering, telling her it was okay, she dropped to her knees, her entire body shaking with sobs.

Buffy wrapped her arms around her friend, her partner.

"Look at me. I'm�"

"A survivor."

"Oh yeah? And what do I have to show for it?"

"A friend."

"Who pities me."

"Who respects you, and wants your friendship too."

"Why?"

"Cause, well�you're wicked cool girlfriend." Faith choked on her own laughter, and Buffy tried to glare, but couldn't pull it off. "And it looks like some of our other friends are calling us over."

Faith looked up and saw Giles and Xander standing a couple yards away. She got up, shook off her tears, and with Buffy's arm around her shoulders, they went to meet them.

Continue to Parts 5-8

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