It Starts With Faith
Kate looked at the gruesome scene in front her for just a moment before she turned to face David. "It looks like our guy is picking up his pace," she murmured.
"Apparently," agreed David quietly, his green eyes thoughtful as they analyzed the crime scene. "Must've decided killing just one person a night isn't his kick." With a pause he added, "Or he's finished now and this was his grand finale before the whole damn thing starts over again. You know how it works."
"Yeah," said Kate with a sigh. "I do." She then walked out of the room with David keeping pace close behind her. "Those kids found this, the friends of the Rosenberg and Chase girls."
"That so?" David asked, prompting Kate to continue.
"Yup, that's so," Kate said, smiling despite the situation just from how well she knew David's reactions. The wheels in his head were already turning as he tried to figure out just why those two girls were here. "They claim that they were walking home after being at some club and they saw the door was open to this place." She turned to face David and formed a dry smile. "The little angels also claim they didn't go inside, that they just called us when they saw the door open because it seemed suspicious. You buy that, Dave?" asked Kate with a sarcastic drawl.
"Not even if it was on sale," replied David in equally wry tones, offering her an ironic smile. "I have to give those kids credit though, they came up with one hell of a story, didn't they now?"
"Yup, and it's our job to break it," said Kate in solemn tones. "You up feeling up for it?"
"Hey, it's my only joy in life," David remarked rather impishly as he followed Kate out the door.
Warily shaking her head at this statement, Kate strode out of the office building and said, "You've got one sick life, Dave my friend. You know that, don't you?"
"We do what we know," said David with a shrug.
Considering his words, Kate wondered just what that said about both herself and David. Along with the kids who found this crime scene as well as the mysterious killer.
What did it say about them all? And was it good? Somehow, deep in her heart, she doubted that the answer to those questions was an affirming yes.
Lately, she found herself doubting everything, and it wasn't like she didn't have reason. They had a killer running loose and no clues as to just who he was or why he was doing this. And the only people in town who seemed to have some idea weren't cooperating with their investigation.
Kate decided that it was far past time to change that. She was going to find those two girls and she was going to find the killer and those kids were going to help her whether they wanted to or not.
Because that was her job and her job was what Kate Lockley did and knew best in this world.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Punch, punch, kick, kick.
That was the rhythm of Faith's workout when it had first began, one that had been going on for the past two hours. She didn't take any breaks in her stride, punching and kicking the bag with all of her strength. Trying to release all of her aggression, all of her frustration, all of her emotions, out on it.
Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be working too well as her sense of utter helplessness about stopping all of the horrors around her wouldn't leave.
In fact, they stayed with Faith, tormenting her even more. Which was perhaps why her workout increased as time went on. Faith was now busy wielding a Japanese wooden sword, a weapon that Giles had introduced to her weeks ago, and was in the middle of performing her sixty seventh kata when Giles himself appeared.
Part of her should have known better than to think that she would be left to herself when she was working out in the special gym placed in the basement of Techno Pagan Ltd. So narrowing her eyes, Faith kept up the high pace of her kata and swung the wooden sword sharply through the air, stopping it inches away from the dummy's head that stood loosely in front of her.
"G-man," said Faith in calm, almost dead tones. "You got something to tell me? Anything new maybe?"
"Faith," began Giles, concern obvious in his voice as he made his way down the last step. "You shouldn't push yourself like this. If you do, then you simply won't be in any shape to rescue Cordelia and Willow when--"
"When, when, when," Faith grated, her jaw tightening. Whirling around, she met Giles' gaze with fierce eyes that burned into his soul. "I'm sick of the when's. I can't take this! No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, people keep dying, and I can't find one trace of Cordelia and Will! Not one fucking trace!"
Suddenly, Faith released a shout of pure fury and with a clean sweep, she swung the wooden sword at the dummy, slicing off its head. For a long and what seemed like an endless moment, they both stared at the dummy's head and then, Faith burst out into caustic laughter.
"Great!" Faith declared wildly, her eyes just as crazed as her voice as she turned to face Giles. "I can kill a dummy but I can't find a killer! Hell, I can't even find the girl I love, much less my best friend! I'm useless!" Flinging the wooden sword across the room with such force that it shattered, Faith shouted, "I'm not a Slayer! I'm a fucking loser!!"
"Faith," said Giles, moving towards her, trying to sound soothing despite the fear he felt at her current state of being. "This isn't your fault, you must--"
"I must what?" demanded Faith. She shook her head wearily and said, "I must be the worst Slayer to ever exist. That's what I must be. If I can't even protect the people that I love most in the world how am I supposed to protect everyone else, huh?"
"This isn't your fault," said Giles softly, arriving at her side and slowly reaching out to clasp her shoulder.
"No, but it may as well be," said Faith a bit darkly. "My job was to protect them and I didn't do it. I'm still not doing it but it's way past time that I did."
"Faith, what are you saying?" asked Giles, his voice and face alarmed now as he studied her closely.
"I'm saying that it's time that I start acting like what I am," Faith said stiffly, walking past him and out of the gym. "I'm saying that it's time that I do my job as a Slayer. No matter what."
"Faith!" shouted Giles, heading after the Slayer as she disappeared up the stairs. "What are you planning? Where are you going?"
"I'm going to do my job," said Faith in grim tones. She headed up the stairs, through the store room, and into the magic shop, past Buffy and Jenny, then growled dangerously at them, "Don't try and stop me."
"Faith?" asked Buffy with worry, starting to head after the other Slayer who turned around and met her eyes with a fearsome gaze. "Faith? What is this about?"
"Don't follow me, Buff," Faith ground the words out savagely. "None of you follow me. I gotta do this on my own."
And then with that, Faith turned on her heel and walked out of the magic shop, the door shutting after her with a resounding slam, leaving three very anxious people behind.
"What did he say?"
Hanging up the phone, Trick turned to regard Iris who was stretched out on their bed and his lips quirked up in a smile. "He found the pendant and will return soon."
"Goodie," said Iris dryly. She flipped over onto her stomach and offered him a coy look. "Oh, Tricky boy," she called out in playful and sensuous tones while she crawled towards him on the bed in a catlike manner. "Aren't you going to tell me what that new toy of his does?"
"It's magic, baby doll," said Trick easily, moving towards Iris smoothly, clasping her arms and pulling her up and against his chest. "Supposedly it'll help increase the power of his spells."
"Wooh, that'll be fun," Iris said with certain delight, forming a vicious smile. "So he's going to use it to destroy the Slayers then? Make a big, big, boom?"
"Or a giant, giant, splat," drawled Trick humorously as he tipped Iris' chin up so their eyes met. "And that's something you'd just love to see, isn't it?"
"You know me so well," said Iris, smiling deeply, pressing up against him as their lips met in a heated kiss.
"I ought to," Trick murmured against her lips while the kiss ended and he lightly pushed Iris back onto the bed as he loomed over her. "We have been together for eighty seven years now."
"Eighty eight in a month," added Iris, smiling again as she drew Trick down on top of her. Their lips were just inches apart and winding her fingers around the back of his neck, she asked, "Are you happy with this job?"
"Happy?" repeated Trick skeptically. He quirked an eyebrow while falling next to her on the bed so they lay side by side and could meet their eyes. "Baby, this job isn't about making me or you happy. It's about the money. We agreed that we weren't about to be like every other vamp on the street, living forever but not planning right. This job is just business, like everything else."
Averting her eyes, Iris looked up at the ceiling and said rather quietly, "I don't like this job. It's different than what we usually deal with. Kakistos is one of the oldest of our kin and he's not in this for the money."
"And all we understand is money, right?" Trick finished for Iris. "Is that what's got you bothered? That you can't figure out just why he's doing all this?"
"Maybe," admitted Iris slowly. "You're right, business is business and I do want to kill that annoying blonde Slayer, Buffy," Iris snarled her name and shifted into her game face just slightly. "But this pendant... him increasing his powers, I can't figure what it's for." She looked to Trick and asked, "Do you think that it has to do with his pets? To keep them in line?"
"Could be," Trick drew the words out slowly. Moments later, his eyes glinted with amusement and he said, "Spying is such an out of line action, you know."
On hearing him say this, Iris jumped up into a sitting position and turned quickly towards the door, just in time to see a rapidly disappearing shadow.
Her eyes darkening into a deep royal blue, Iris looked back at Trick, who was still smiling with a great deal of amusement, chuckled and said, "Sneaky."
"Perfect for our team," remarked Trick, drawing Iris back on top of him. "Don't you think, baby doll?"
"Oh yes," Iris chuckled again. "Perfect indeed, if just a tad bit insane."
As he moved closer to Iris to share a deep kiss, Trick couldn't help but silently agree with her. After all, just what is insanity to a vampire anyway?
Only an edge in battle, one would suppose.
The voice spoke to them today.
Spoke to them kindly and with reassurance. It was the first time that it had ever done that and they wondered just why it had done so today. What was its reason?
Was the voice planning something? They couldn't help but suspect that was the reason behind it. There was always a reason behind what the voice did, they knew that after days, weeks, months, of contact with it. Any sense of time had been lost to them long ago but they knew the voice well.
After all, it was the only thing they had contact with. How couldn't they know the voice well?
And knowing the voice well, they knew from hearing it today that it was planning something. There were many firsts today as the voice first spoke to them with kindness and then asked them how they felt, what they desired most in this world. The discussion was quiet and restrained, often like the voice at times, and most definitely like them as they kept quiet always.
Always except for tonight. Because tonight the voice had wanted to talk to them. Had wanted to hear them as well as be heard by them.
They were still contemplating all of this, the strangeness of the voice's actions and the conversation that they had with it when they heard familiar footsteps. But this time, the footsteps weren't accompanied by the voice greeting their ears. This time it was accompanied by the sound of a sharp metal jangling and the metal door to their cell opening with a painful screech.
"Go," the voice echoed solemnly in their ears and they could vaguely see its body standing in the shadows. "Go and tell your friends what you remember about me. I won't be able to play with them if you stay in here."
They stared at the shadows in which the voice lurked and slowly, they moved forward and stared at it from just inches outside of the cell in which they lived all this time. A long silence stretched between them and then, suddenly, they were being held from behind as a rag covered their mouth and nose.
In seconds, they collapsed in the voice's arms, as it held them gently, lifting them smoothly into its hold before it walked down the hall and out of the building. All with their final words echoing in the air ominously.
"And I do want to keep playing with them."
In Kate's opinion Jenny Calendar always looked far too happy to see her arrive inside of her shop. Then again, in Kate's opinion Jenny just looked far too happy period.
"Detective Lockley," began Jenny in her always charming drawl as she smiled warmly at Kate. "Back so soon? You must really enjoy our little chats. Or," her dark eyes flashed with humor and flirtation. "Is it that you just miss me? Is that it? I do like a lady in uniform..."
"I'm not wearing a uniform," reminded Kate gruffly, her eyes glinting dangerously at Jenny while she folded her arms across her chest. "You forget that?"
"Of course not," said Jenny smoothly, her expression teasing as she leaned against the counter to rest her chin in the palm of her hand. "I'm just having a lovely flashback of the cute mailwoman in here earlier."
"Right," said Kate dryly, her eyes narrowed.
"Miss Calendar, we have a few questions," David interrupted, giving an easy smile. "For you and your friends as well," he added, looking to Buffy and Giles.
"What a shock," Buffy muttered to herself.
"What was that?" asked Kate sharply, locking her gaze on Buffy who met her eyes steadily and without fear.
"Nothing," said Buffy evenly. Hazel eyes slowly shifted over to David and she said, "Question away."
"Thanks," said David, smiling still. "I will, and I think I'll start with just why your group of friends seem to always be sneaking into all of our crime scenes. And," his eyes gleamed with intelligence. "Why it's becoming a huge coincidence that you found the latest victims."
"Don't have an answer for you," said Buffy, giving a shrug. "We're just unlucky, I guess."
"Then why is it that you're always at the crime scenes?" Kate picked up on the line of questioning immediately.
"Academic curiosity," supplied Jenny, her eyes revealing a hint of humor. "You can't believe what the papers write these days. They're even accusing us of being uncooperative in aiding your investigation. Then again," she paused to smile. "You're doing that too, aren't you, Detective Lockley? Why is that?"
"Maybe because of this," Kate said impatiently. "You and all your damn half answers, you don't give us one thing that could be useful! Just mystery and smiles!"
"Are my smiles not to your liking?" Jenny asked coyly, tilting her head to one side as she studied Kate. Her eyes shone with something unrecognizable to Kate as she leaned forward and purred, "Would you like a kiss instead?"
"I'll tell you what I'd like," began Kate with an angry snarl, moving into a defensive position. "I'd like to wipe that arrogant attitude of yours away by--"
"Leaving the questions to me," intervened David smoothly as he firmly placed his hand over Kate's mouth as her blue gray eyes flashed with annoyance. When he took his hand away, she merely glared at him some more and he sighed with relief at this reaction. Turning to focus on Giles, he asked, "What's the real reason behind this? We know you have some idea why these murders are happening, why Willow and Cordelia were taken. Why won't you tell us what you know?"
"We can't tell you anything," said Giles, sadness showing in his gaze. "Because what we would tell you, you'd never believe and that would just cause us even more troubles and keep you from finding them. What we know, you must see for yourselves."
"Then how do we see it?" asked David earnestly. "I want to know what you do... I want to understand."
"You'll see and understand when the time is right," Giles murmured, looking to Jenny who gave a slight nod of confirmation at this. "We all do."
"Great, now we get mystery talks," muttered Kate, folding her arms over her chest again.
"You can always leave," suggested Buffy in overly helpful tones as she gave Kate a mocking smile.
"Why are you here again?" asked Kate pointedly.
"Part-time workers, hello, ever hear of them?" asked Buffy obnoxiously while forming an expression that clearly said the word 'duh' to anyone who saw it.
"Uh-huh," began Kate, now fully focused on Buffy who was beginning to think that was a bad thing. "But tell me why it is that you're always with these two? They are a few years older than you, so why the friendship?"
"I know Giles from school and since he's Faith's Uncle I see him around a lot," said Buffy, her hazel eyes narrowed. "And Jenny's my boss and she's not that much older than me. Just about your age, I think, but unlike you, she's not all 'ouch, ouch! My undies are stuck in a wad' acting."
Kate scowled at this and David smirked before he coughed and turned to look at Buffy. "Speaking of Faith, where is she now? Usually you're together."
"She's out," said Buffy evasively.
"Out where?" Kate pursued.
"Do I look like a stalker?" asked Buffy, fixing her gaze on Kate and sneering a bit. "I have no idea where she is. She just went out to clear her head."
"Cordelia's disappearance is getting to her, isn't it?" asked David softly, his green eyes full of understanding.
In that moment, looking up into David's gaze, Buffy found herself becoming lost in his eyes that reflected a unique kindness and understanding that she'd only known once in her life.
The only time she'd known it was whenever she was with Willow. And she missed it, she missed it so very much, that look of understanding, that look of kindness. Those eyes, how they would reflect strength and encouragement, telling her silently that everything would be all right. That feeling of peace she would gain while looking into them, that feeling of love they gave her...
She missed it, she missed it like she missed Willow. She missed them both with all of her heart and soul.
"Yeah," Buffy replied sadly. "It is."
"They had a relationship," David continued. "The two of them were going out, they were in love." He wore a slight smile then said, "They're the talk of your school, you know. Them, Willow, and her band."
"We're the gossip magnets," said Buffy a bit wryly. "The people everyone else loves to talk about."
"And they tend to talk a lot, don't they?" asked David carefully, studying Buffy closely. "For instance, they were talking about Cordelia and Faith breaking up before Cordelia supposedly left for her trip to New York with her parents. Buffy," he enforced her name with quiet strength, one that caused the blonde to lift her head and meet his gaze. "Do you think that had something to do with Cordelia going missing? Her and Faith's break up?"
"They didn't break up," said Buffy in distant tones, her eyes moving away from his to gaze out the window of the magic shop. "That's a lie... they belong together."
"Then what was it?" David asked.
Clenching her jaw as her eyes filled with tears, Buffy said with obvious loathing, "It was me."
David was about to ask Buffy just what she meant by that, when he found Jenny standing in front of him, wearing the expression of a protective parent. "That'll be enough questions for tonight, Mr. Benard," said Jenny, her voice almost harsh. "I think it would be best if you left now."
"I'm afraid I have to agree," said Giles in firm tones, his eyes narrowed and echoing a very clear danger. He was clasping Buffy's shoulders who was staring hard at the floor, an expression of guilt and sorrow on her features. "Please go, we have things to take care of here."
"And we'll just be in the way, right?" asked Kate in lightly sarcastic tones.
"Precisely that," Giles said roughly.
"Lets go, Katie," said David, turning on his heel and walking out of the shop. "We have things to take care of ourselves. Most importantly, a murderer to catch."
"Right," Kate agreed, following after David.
As they opened to the door to the magic shop and were about to leave, Jenny called out, "Just keep your eyes open and you'll know what we know, Detective. You'll know and then, you might finally understand."
Kate's only response was a soft and derisive snort of disbelief before she let the door go swinging shut. Then, Jenny and Giles turned away to tend to Buffy, her pain and the quest to find Willow and Cordelia.
Which was all they ever did lately.
It felt strange to be liked by Willow's parents.
Especially considering the circumstances that he was able to be liked in. Perhaps that's why Vince couldn't enjoy the approval he'd finally been given by them. After all, what good was their approval if Willow wasn't there to share in the happiness of it with him?
There was nothing good in it at all.
"Vince," began Ira slowly, sitting down across from the young man who remained in his usual recliner. The one that he knew was Willow's favorite and held the lightest scent of the same incense that always clung to her. "I know that you trust those people but I've talked to David and Kate and they believe they're what's keeping the investigation from going successfully."
"Yes," Sheila agreed with a nod, her eyes plaintive as they locked with Vince's. "But you're friends with them, I know you feel close to them... so can't you somehow ask them to work with the Police? It would help so much..."
"And ease our minds," Ira finished earnestly. "We honestly don't want to mistrust those people, Vince. What we want is to like them and to understand just why Willow liked them, similar to what we've done with you. But right now," he heaved a sigh. "It's impossible because it seems like all they're doing is making it harder for David and the Police to find our little girl."
"And we won't stand for that," said Sheila firmly. "What parent could? So," she was looking at Vince with a gentle expression now. "Do you think that you can help?"
Vince was about to reply when he heard something like a knock but more like a thump coming from the front door of the Rosenberg house. Turning his head towards the sound, he frowned and said, "What was that?"
"Vince?" asked Ira, watching as the blonde boy wandered out of the living room slowly. "What are you doing?"
"I thought I heard something," replied Vince cautiously, turning to look at the Rosenbergs. "I'm just going to see what it is, okay? I'll be right back."
"It's probably a reporter," Sheila said with more than a bit of loathing. "Just ignore them, dear."
Not heeding Sheila's advice, Vince kept walking towards the front door with his heart pounding wildly, so wildly he feared that it would pound right out of his chest. Still feeling this way, he paused at the door, staring at it as he heard the soft sounds coming from outside before he slowly reached out to grab the door knob.
As he turned the knob, Vince felt his heart beat even faster, even wilder, because as he turned the knob and opened the door, the first thing that his brown eyes were met with was the sight of Willow crumpled on the porch in a heap. She looked tired, she looked worn, she looked all of these things and more but the only thing that registered in his mind was that she was alive.
Alive and with him once again.
Releasing a choked cry of joy, Vince rushed to examine Willow with shaky hands, finally managing to cup her face in his grasp, and when eyes met eyes, he sobbed once again because he knew it was her. He knew because of the kindness, the love, the understanding, was floating inside of her sparkling green eyes, it was one that couldn't possibly be imitated. This was his Willow.
And she was back, for good.
"Red," said Vince gruffly, holding her close to him, rocking her back and forth as he tried to fight his tears. "I missed you so much. Thank god you're back..."
Focusing on her surroundings, this strange place that the voice had left her, Willow wondered where she was and who was the person hugging her. That was when Vince pulled back again and cupped her face one more time. He wore a smile of pure happiness as he said in soft and gentle tones, "I love you."
Then it all came back to her.
Memory upon memory came crashing down on her like a tidal wave and closing her eyes in a painful gesture, Willow whispered brokenly, "Vince."
"You're back," Vince continued to hold her desperately, doing his best to convince himself that she was really there in his arms. "You're really back."
"Vince," whispered Willow again, falling into his embrace and holding onto him tightly. Tears began to fall as she realized what no one else did, as she remembered what no one else could, as she knew what they were up against, for she'd been held by them. She and a few helpless others. "We're in trouble..."
And it was true, they were in trouble. But as Vince held her in his arms, and as her parents, stirred by all of their noise, walked out onto the porch, crying with joy when they saw just who was there, swept her up into their arms, Willow found herself slowly pushing that terrifying knowledge into the back of her mind.
Because it was something that could wait for another time. Right now, she was finally back where she belonged. Back with her family, her friends, and Vince.
Which was all Willow ever really wanted.
That and to somehow protect all of them against the horrors that she knew were about to come.
Faith was driving but she wasn't sure where she was headed. She just knew that she had to get away, she had to have some time to herself. To think and to try and figure out just why all of this was happening.
Rounding a tight corner, Faith sighed as the wind flew against her body and made her feel at peace. All she wanted was for that feeling to last because it was a feeling she had all of the time when Cordelia was near.
Peace, love, and understanding.
Those were hippie themes from the 60s, she knew, but at the same time they were the perfect explanation for how Faith felt when Cordelia was with her. She always felt at peace, she always felt loved, and she always felt like she was understood completely.
But now Cordelia was gone... and all those feelings left Faith and she feared that if Cordelia didn't come back, they would leave her for good. And maybe, she would never be happy again.
Happy like she was when with Cordelia.
It was such a scary thought that Faith felt herself resisting its reality. She didn't want her life to be like that, she didn't want to need someone that badly, and yet, she did... she did need Cordelia that badly. Faith needed her like that ever since the day that she'd let Cordelia into her heart. Perhaps that's why Faith fought so hard not to let anyone get too close. Because she feared that if she did, they would leave her... leave her alone with her need for them, unable to do anything to stop those feelings.
To stop her love for them.
Shaking her head a bit, Faith turned up her pace, and pushed Lil' Butchy into top speed, turning a sharp corner and sounding a screech in the night air. Escape, she had to escape from all this. From this life, from this pain, from this despair she felt.
Pushing the bike into high gear, Faith could dimly hear the voice of her mother mocking her. Calling her all those terrible names of the past, telling her that she should've never trusted Cordelia. She should've never let her in, because it was a fluke. No one like Cordelia would ever truly love a loser like her.
And her duty as a Slayer? The caustic laugh of her mother, so much like the one she'd used earlier today, now echoed in her ears. Give that up. How could she think of calling herself a Slayer when she couldn't protect the people that she loved? She wasn't worthy of her title and might as well hand her duties over to Buffy.
At least Buffy protected those she loved. And who was it that Buffy loved again? Oh yes, her, Faith. But why would Buffy love a failure like her? Pretty soon that would fade away too, just like Cordelia's love, and once Buffy's love was gone, Giles' love would follow...
Until soon, Faith would be like she was before. Alone, without anyone to love, without anyone to love her.
As all these thoughts swam through her head, Faith clenched her jaw in a painful movement and sped up once again, so much that she almost lost control of Lil' Butchy as she made yet another sharp turn. The bike screeched and seemed to tip over as she came closer to the ground than she ever wanted while on a motorcycle.
Righting herself and slowing down her pace as her heart pounded out of control, Faith tried to calm down. A moment later, she parked Lil' Butchy by a side street and took off her helmet. Resting her head lightly against the handlebars, Faith tried her best to control her breathing.
"That was exciting," Faith said in humorless tones.
Studying her surroundings, Faith saw that she was near the location of the first murder. Getting off her bike, she walked towards the scene without quite knowing why she was even heading that way.
Pausing just inches inside the alley, Faith looked up, closing her eyes painfully as she thought about the man whose life had ended here. The man that she couldn't save.
Her hands now clenched into trembling fists, Faith muttered, "I couldn't save him just like I couldn't save any of them. I'm worthless as a Slayer. Worthless."
Moving further ahead, Faith crouched down on the ground, staring at it closely. "What would you think of me now, sweets?" asked Faith softly. "I'm not like I used to be. I used to think that as long as I was a Slayer I could do anything. That there was nothing I couldn't fix as long as I did my best. Because, hell, I'm the chosen one, aren't I? And aren't chosen ones supposed to win all the time? Aren't they supposed to be invincible?"
Releasing a harsh laugh, Faith shook her head as she ran her fingers over the dirty concrete. "I'm sure not invincible now. In fact, I dunno what I am anymore... being a Slayer seems like a title these days, not what I really am. Maybe because I can't do what I gotta as a Slayer." Tears falling slowly but surely from her brown eyes, Faith whispered, "I can't save people anymore, sweets. I try my best but I can't. My best isn't good enough anymore and I'm sick of it. I'm so sick of not being able to find you and Will, not being able to stop these murders from happening. I just want things to go back to how they used to be. Why can't we do that?"
Faith was hugging herself for comfort now, trying to ward off the shivers that covered her body from the sudden cold wind in the air. She was still doing this when a voice sounded.
A voice all too familiar and loved by her. And just what did they say to her? Simply that...
"The past is past, Faith."
"Sweets?" Faith said shakily, lifting her head to gaze at the person before her, looking at them with a conflicted expression of hopeful disbelief. "Is that really you?"
"No, it's my evil twin," said Cordelia in lovingly teasing tones as she reached down to pull Faith to her feet. "Of course it's me, mushball," she murmured tenderly while she pushed some stray strands of hair aside. "Who else would it be?"
"Sweets!" Faith cried out with joy, sobbing as she moved forward to propel herself into Cordelia's arms. "It's really you! You're here... you're really here."
"Shhh, it'll be okay," Cordelia soothed, smoothing out Faith's hair as the Slayer clung to her tightly. "I'm here and we're together so everything will be fine."
"I thought I lost you," said Faith in muffled tones, still holding onto Cordelia tight. "I thought that Kakistos killed you or had you captured or something horrible and I tried, I tried so hard to find you sweets but I couldn't. I was starting to give up about ever seeing you again."
"Well, you're seeing me now, right?" said Cordelia a bit humorously, rubbing Faith's back in a circular motion now. "And I wouldn't worry much about Kakistos."
Faith was about to ask Cordelia just what she meant by saying that when suddenly, her Slayer senses, the ones she'd been ignoring due to the joy of having Cordelia back with her, flared to life and Faith froze in her embrace.
Moving slowly backwards with an expression of shock and horror, Faith shook her head and whispered, "No."
"Oh, did you finally notice?" asked Cordelia, wearing a little smirk as she tilted her head to one side. "I was thinking that maybe you never would. Then what sort of coming out party would I have?" Then, with a shifting of her face, Cordelia became one of the monsters that Faith fought against. "Not a fun one."
"Sweets..." began Faith, reaching her hand out to the other girl. "This isn't you... you're not a--"
"A vampire? Sorry, ex-girlfriend but your answer is correct," Cordelia interrupted gleefully. "I'm not only a vampire but I'm the Childe of Kakistos." Sliding forward so she was inches away from Faith, she cupped the other girl's chin in her hand. "That means that I have all of his strength, all of his power, and he has all of my loyalty. My Daddy," she paused to smile wider. "Has plans for all of you in Sunnydale and I'm a big part of them."
"No," Faith sobbed, shaking her head back and forth violently, her whole body trembling. "This isn't true. I don't believe this is happening... it's not... it's not..."
"Poor Faith," cooed Cordelia, sinking down onto the ground with the Slayer. Her hands gently caressed the other girl's cheeks as she said, "You think this is all your fault, don't you? That I got captured by Kakistos and made into an icky evil vampire. Just because I got screwed over enough to catch you kissing Buffy that night. Oh," she paused to cluck her tongue. "I forgot to ask. Do you love Buffy now? Is that what that was all about?"
"No, no," Faith just kept sobbing, shaking her head, her body continuing to tremble. "No... I..."
"You what?" prompted Cordelia gently. Then suddenly, she reached out to viciously grab Faith's chin in her hand and growled, "I don't want to have to ask you again. Do you love her?"
"I don't," Faith choked out, her brown tear filled eyes meeting Cordelia's hard lifeless ones. "I still love you, sweets. I've only loved you."
Forming a triumphant smile, Cordelia leaned forward, so close that their lips almost met, Faith's breath hot on her cold skin as she said, "And do you love me now? Despite what I am and what I've done?"
"You've done?" asked Faith shakily. "What did--"
Faith's question was cut off by Cordelia forming yet another smile, this one slow and vicious. Closing her eyes as she realized just what Cordelia had done, Faith looked deep inside of her heart before she replied.
"I love who you used to be," Faith whispered.
"Mmm, nice answer," purred Cordelia, she moved in closer her face near Faith's ear, hovering right above the Slayer's neck but still, Faith didn't move. "I could feed on you right now and you'd let me, wouldn't you? I bet that I could even kill you and you'd let me. You love what I was that much, don't you?"
"Yes," said Faith in choked tones, squeezing her eyes shut and waiting for her death to come, silently giving an apology to Giles and the others for her passing.
There was a moment of utter silence and then, Cordelia abruptly pulled away, regarding Faith with a calculating gaze before she said grimly, "Live."
Faith sat frozen, only able to watch as Cordelia walked out of the alley. Cordelia, who didn't turn to look back at Faith as she said these last words.
"Live with the pain I cause you just like I live with the pain you caused me. Only the pain that I'll give out... will be far worse than anything you can imagine."
Pausing at the entrance of the alley, Cordelia turned slightly, hazel eyes meeting brown ones as she said in hard and dangerous tones, "The game is just starting so you better get yourself ready to play, Slayer."
As Faith watched the creature that had been the girl that she loved, had been the joy in her life, had been Cordelia Chase, walk away from her, she knew her heart was leaving with her.
And it might never return.
To be continued...