Road to Redemption - a Faith Series (takes place between 4th and 5th season of BtVS) By: Monet

Episode one: Not an Easy Thing to Find

====================================================== Wesley: "I hope she is strong enough to make it. Peace is not an easy thing to find." Angel: "She has a chance." - Sanctuary ======================================================

"Keep running," Hannah urged her companion as they rushed through a side alley of Los Angeles. Her feet pattered loudly on the concrete, her worn out shoes not giving much in way of cushion. But it barely mattered. They just had to keep going.

"I don't know, Hannah," Amber whispered, clearly out of breath. "We don't have anything to give them. Why are they chasing us?"

"Because it's fun," came a voice from in front of them.

Hannah and Amber stopped short, seeing the three large figures blocking their way to the exit of the alley.

Two more from the same gang came from behind, sandwiching them in.

"Please," Amber cried, still trying to get a breath. "Please don't hurt us. We-we've already been through so much. And we don't' have anything. We're homeless."

The leader of the group laughed. "And who said it was money we was looking for, sweetheart?" he asked.

Hannah pushed the younger woman behind her, backing them into the alley's wall. She had no idea what she was to do to keep these dirty men away from both of them. Begging surely wouldn't work. At least not for both of them. She knew this gang. The symbol on their jackets, tattooed on their forearms. Though they were not the gang she feared the most at the moment, they weren't a gang to be reckoned with.

"Let her go," Hannah said to them, trying to keep her voice void of desperation. She had to sound strong, even if she didn't feel like it.

"No," Amber whispered.

The leader of the group glanced at his buddies then grinned a toothy grin. "Sweetheart, you don't got a choice in the matter of who goes and who stays." He stepped nearer to them, cracking his knuckles as he approached. The other gang members followed his lead.

Hannah backed them up against the wall even more, tears threatening to spill from her eyes. It was worse enough that her littlest girl was taken from her a few days ago. She did not want to be violated more, especially by this group of men. Her life was already empty enough without her littlest one.

She did not want to end it like this.

Hannah glanced around their immediate area, noticing a bottle only inches from her feet. "Run, Amber!" Hannah cried as she bent over and picked up the bottle and threw it towards the leader. She hoped that the others would help him instead of pay attention to Amber.

The bottle hit its mark. Right on the face.

The leader cried out in pain, his hands drawing themselves up to where the bottle had cut into him when it shattered.

Amber, not knowing exactly what was happening, ran for what she thought was the safest route. She bolted towards the distracted and injured leader as Hannah tried to do the same.

But the gang members behind them were faster. They rushed after the both of them, one of them catching Hannah by the shoulder and pulling her back. He shoved her onto the floor, making her hit the concrete hard enough to almost knock her out.

Amber turned her head just as she reached the exit of the alley, only to smash into someone. She fell from the impact, landing on her butt.

"Watchit," the girl snapped.

Amber looked up only to find a dark-haired girl glaring unhappily down on her. The girl was no more than 18-years-old, though her face, even under the dim light of the street lamp, revealed the harshness of her life. "Help," Amber simply said.

The girl looked beyond Amber to see one of the gang members running up from behind. Her mouth was drawn into a straight line in annoyance more than anything. She sighed and crossed her arms as the gang member reached Amber and pulled her up to her feet.

He paused, looking the girl up and down and up again.

Amber began to cry softly, not knowing exactly what the girl was going to do unless she planned to go call the cops. Hannah was left behind, and Amber feared as to what the other three were doing to her right now.

"You gotta be kidding me," the girl remarked, glaring at the guy.

He just smiled, licking his lips. "What am I kidding you about, hot cheeks?"

"Big boy like you harrassin' this chick." She nodded towards Amber.

"Just g-get help," Amber mumbled, not sure why she was just provoking him further.

The girl met Amber's eyes, giving her an unreadable expression. Even so, Amber could see the girl was not budging to go anywhere.

"How about a big boy like me harassing a hottie like you?"

"How about you kiss my ass?" the girl snapped, clearly getting tired of the exchange.

The guy blinked in surprise at her nonchalant attitude. It was clearly obvious he was used to females cowering under him - and he didn't like those that didn't. "Listen, bitch, you've just gotten yourself on my bad list."

"Aw. Like I give a shit. What do you say you let her go and no one - meaning YOU - gets hurt?"

The guy laughed as Amber began to get really nervous. "Just g-go," she told the girl. The stranger must've been trying to get the guy's attention off of her.

The gang member shoved Amber away and went to grab the girl, only to get a kick under the chin so hard, he actually flew up and over Amber, landing behind her with a pained grunt before passing out.

Amber's eyes followed his flight and flinched when he landed. She couldn't help but look back at the girl who stood there and stared at him.

"You gonna leave or what?" the girl asked, reaching over and pulling her to her feet.

"My-My friend," Amber began, pointing back into the alley. "She's in trouble, too. She needs help."

The girl glanced towards the alley, seemingly torn as to what she wanted to do.

Amber saw the look and shook her head. "No. You don't need to go back there. We can get help. But we need to do it fast. There's four of them. I-I don't know if."

"Four of 'em?" the girl asked, her brows raised. That bit of information seemed to help make up her mind. "You go back to wherever you came from. I'll handle it."

"Just you? Oh, I couldn't ask you to do."

"You ain't askin'. I'm volunteering. Now get outta here before my saving of your ass was a waste." She nodded towards the guy who still lay there unconscious.

Amber hesitated a little then nodded, starting off in one direction. She acted like she was about to run when she slowed down and turned back. The girl had already entered the alley. Amber stood there, debating on where she wanted to go: see if she could help in some way or go run off and get more help.

She couldn't leave Hannah, however. She had to make sure her friend was safe.

So she went back, seeing the still unconscious body of the man who had attacked her only minutes before. That's when another body came flying out of the alley, landing right at the sidewalk's edge. He shifted a little with a groan, but didn't do much else.

Amber blinked in shock. She heard a fight in the alley, trash cans being thrown - or else, things being thrown into them. People letting out a yell. though they all sounded male.

Hannah came running out, her eyes wide. She nearly ran into Amber. "Oh! You're okay!"

Amber hugged her, glad to see her best friend was still in tact. "Did they hurt you?"

"No. They almost did but." She turned her head towards the alley. "But that girl came. She saved me."

"She saved me, too. Who is she?"

Hannah shrugged, still holding onto Amber. "I-I don't know. But. she was fighting them. All four of them - at one time." She noticed the two unconscious bodies near their feet. She pointed to the one furthest to them. "She just threw him like he was some trash bag or something. It was amazing."

"Threw him?" Amber asked, astonished. Just like how she had kicked her attacker so easily. The girl was pretty strong. A thought passed through her a moment. "Maybe she can help us against them."

Hannah looked at her friend, her thoughts beginning to merge with Amber's. "Do you think she.?"

Suddenly, the girl came out from the dark alley, dusting off her pants. She paid more attention to her motion than the two women standing there. "Only damn pair of leathers I've got so far," she mumbled. She looked up and noticed them. "You guys still here? Do you not know the meaning of run?"

"We're sorry we just."

Sirens were heard in the distance.

"Shit," the girl muttered, looking in the direction the sirens were coming from. "I gotta bail."

"Wait!" Hannah called before the girl could take off. "We want to talk to you, please."

"You don't wanna talk to me, believe me," the girl replied, throwing them a glance over her shoulder. "In fact, this is about as involved as you should get with me. Too much already." She took a few steps further from them.

But Hannah was not going to let this chance go. Not if it meant it would bring her little girl back. She ran up to the girl and took her by the shoulder, almost getting knocked down as the girl swung her arm around. If it wasn't for the girl's extremely quick reflexes of grabbing Hannah's wrist all in the same motion, she would've found herself back on the ground.

"Don't do that," the girl snapped, keeping Hannah steady.

"I'm sorry." The sirens drew nearer and Hannah could see the alertness and slight fear in the girl's eyes. "Come on," she urged, taking the girl's wrist and motioning to Amber. "We know where we can go to talk privately."

The girl almost hesitated but the sirens seemed to be the last thing to push her into following. She sighed and let herself be led. "Someone musta called the cops with all the fucking commotion," she commented.

Hannah nodded, knowing the area was known for its daily brawls in alleys. It was a resident's nightmare, but it was a cop's playground. "Probably. I'm Hannah. This is Amber. What's your name?"

The dark-haired girl met their gazes, wavering on whether to answer. "Just call me Faith."

* * * * *

Faith entered the abandoned townhouse as Hannah shut the door behind her. The dark Slayer looked around the dimmed, dusty foyer that probably had been something gorgeous in its years. It was clear those years were long gone. The railing to the upstairs barely hung there, boards that used to belong to the floor, the wall, the ceiling were strewn all over the place.

Faith hugged her jean jacket close to her. The cops sent a gripping fear down her spine. The four guys in the alley were no big deal. The only thing that would've kept her from fighting them would've been getting caught by the police for disturbing the peace.

After all, she was let out only a few weeks ago - unbeknownst to everyone except Angel, who helped her back into public. The vampire with a soul had been the only one who had ever kept tabs with her. She had a feeling even the Council didn't even care whether or not she was out. But Angel did. And they both knew the only way for Faith to make it on her own was to be on her own.

So she left out from under the wings of the vampire and out into the other side of Los Angeles. She was far enough not to be associated with him, yet near enough to know if she was in some sort of deep trouble, he could be reached.

Angel had convinced them to let her out for good behavior.

She had kept up her part of the bargain just like he and the prison system had. The only way to screw it up was to be caught doing bad things. Getting into fights with five guys three times as big as you, for example.

"You were amazing," Hannah said to Faith when she saw the coast was clear. "They were dangerous men. But you took care of yourself like they weren't. How did you do that?"

Faith shrugged, not really ready to let them know she had supped-up powers that made her stronger, faster, and more agile than them. "You learn things around here," she answered. She stared at the two suspiciously, wondering why they wanted her. But she truly didn't want to be wanted.

She had enough of being wanted. She just wanted to learn to want herself, which was something she had to fight through in the slammer.

"You can help me, then," Hannah said, going nearer to her.

"Hey, girlfriend, I already helped you." She gave her a hard glare. She wasn't ready for this. Not saving people's lives, not even helping them. It was only a year or so ago she had taken lives away, and that hole was hard enough to crawl out of. The darkness in that pit was the most horrible thing Faith had ever faced, and she knew she hadn't made it all the way out quite yet.

In fact, fighting those five guys took so much self-control to pull her punches, keep her cool so that all she would do was beat them up and something permanent.

Hannah frowned. "I know you did, and know we do thank you for it. But. you've shown you probably could help us even more. Please. We can give you a place to stay. It's not much. An old abandoned building a few blocks from here."

"Whoa, hold up," Faith said, putting up her hands to stop the woman from going on. She must've been in her early-to-mid thirties. She must've been desperate to be asking an 18-year-old ex-convict. "I ain't homeless, okay? Yeah, I don't got the funds of a normal low-paid person, but I'm working on it and I'm scraping by okay."

"Oh. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to assume." She glanced down in shame then looked back up, anxiety in her eyes. "Can you please help us out? Help me out? Just this last time. I would pay you only I don't have anything. Nothing now that my daughter is gone."

"Daughter?" Faith's eyes shifted from one woman to the other. "What happened?" she asked before she could stop herself.

"She was taken from me. A. another gang. Only, they're different. They're stronger and they're angrier. And they only lurk during the night time." She fumbled with her hands, seeing how hard it was to go on in the explanation. "I know this sounds crazy, but they've been known to eat people. Children, really. And.. just two days ago, they took my only one." Tears began to fill her eyes as she went on. "One night, they took her out from under me."

Amber reached over and put her arm around Hannah's shoulders in comfort.

Faith could hear the pain in Hannah's voice and it reached inside her. She didn't want it to. She didn't want to hear the pleas, the desperation, the hurt. She had enough of it for herself. "Sorry to hear that," she said, though her attention was taken by Hannah's explanation of the gang.

One that eats people, lurking only in the nighttime?

"Whatta you mean, eats people?" Faith asked.

"Well, maybe not 'eat,'" Amber answered, rubbing Hannah's back soothingly. "More like. um, bites them. Um, maybe even drains them until they are. gone."


The word made the two females stare at Faith.

"I'm just sayin'," the Slayer replied with a shrug. "That's what it sounds like."

"We. we want to say that's what they are," Hannah answered. "But it sounds too crazy."

"Ever think that the craziest explanation for things is probably nothing but the truth?" Faith asked, running her fingers through her dark locks. She sighed. "I'm not sayin' that's what they are. They may be just some stupid motherfuckers who don't got anything better to do than mess with kids." That didn't settle well in her, vamps taking it out on children. "So, what, you want me to find 'em?"

Hannah and Amber exchanged a look, not saying much but telling volumes.

Faith caught what they weren't saying and shifted her eyes out through the broken window of the townhouse. She wanted to refuse, but found herself unable to do it.

Just this one time, she thought to herself.

* * * *

After discussing a few details with Hannah and Amber, Faith went out back into the streets. She had been on her way to her place when Amber had run into her. Now she knew it would be awhile before she could continue to her destination. Now it was a matter of finding the right people to get information from.

Creeping along the side of the wall, the Slayer saw someone moving suspiciously slow in the next small street down. Suspicious always meant they knew something she wanted. Her vampire honing ability was a bit rusty since it had been awhile since she had come across one. It didn't take the honing, however, to see the figure was more than fidgety. Body tensed, Faith decided to make her move now. Get this entire situation over with.

She rushed the person from behind, shoving them into the nearest alley.

"Hey!" they cried, trying to fight back.

Faith turned them around and grabbed them by the front of their jacket, hoisting them off their feet as she slammed them against the wall. "Where you going?" she demanded, glaring into the face of. "Holy, shit. Xander?"

Xander Harris fought against Faith's grip, trying to pry her hands off of his jacket. He looked down from his heightened vantagepoint and his eyes widened. "F-Faith." His feet dangled, as he was obviously uncomfortable. "Gosh, of all the people I meet in L.A. Ah, of course it had to be you. My luck's been just spiffy so far." He could barely get a word out clearly. "I'm not going to run and tell, okay? No one's with me. I'm by my lonesome, and I don't know WHY I'm telling you that."

She blinked, just surprised to see anyone from Sunnydale. "I-I didn't know it was you," she said.

"Really? 'Cause the reaction of wanting to punch my lights out seems about the same. Mind putting me down? Or am I right where you want me?"

She was quickly reminded how much of an ass Xander could be - when he didn't like you too much. "Sorry," she said, lowering him to his feet.

He straightened his jacket and rubbed his neck, noticeably not moving nearer to her. "Thanks," he said. "Wait. Did I just say 'thanks' to you? And did you just apologize?" He shook his head. "I hope I didn't fall into some weird dimensional portal."

Faith frowned. "Look, asshole, I don't have to take this from you, okay? Don't start with me. What the hell are you doing here anyway?"

With a pause of 'better to not provoke a super powered girl who has killed in the past,' Xander said, "Summer vacay."

"So you're spending it almost getting your ass kicked in L.A. at almost one in the morning?"

"Right. I planned for my car to break down about three blocks from here." He stuck his hands in his pockets. "And was hoping I'd get mugged on my way to finding a decent phone." He paused a moment. "I was on my way out of the state."

That sort of took Faith by surprise. "Why?"

"You care?" he asked, almost accusingly.

She knitted her brows together. "Fine. I don't wanna hear your lame ass story anyway. Just run along with your precious Buffy and Willow and we'll pretend this didn't happen." She turned to leave.

"Like I said, they aren't with me," he replied, having to follow her out since there was no other way. "I don't even think they know I'm gone."

"Why? Finally realizing you're not worth shit?" She actually felt a twinge of guilt as the comment left her mouth, but she shook it off. If he could talk bad to her like that, then she saw no reason why she couldn't dish it back.

Though she knew he had more of a right between the two of them to use cold, biting words. Still, she didn't have to take it.

"And you know all about what's worth it, huh?" Xander retorted. "I seem to recall the last time you showed your face in Sunnydale, not only did you get your ass kicked - AGAIN - but your worth pretty much just plummeted -" But he never finished his sentence before a hand grabbed him by the throat and shoved him up against the nearest wall again.

Faith glared hard at him, her other hand clenched in a fist. "I think shutting the fuck up would be a good thing right about now, Xander."

"You're choking me," he managed to say through her grip. "Just like old times."

She blinked and let him drop, suddenly feeling like she just gotten hit in the stomach by a wrecking ball.

He barely landed on his feet but reached out to the wall to keep his balance. "What I'm wondering is what the hell YOU'RE doing out?"

"You care?" she shot back, trying to shake off his last remark.

"Not really, but I do want to make sure I warn everyone that you are out." He rubbed his neck and looked at her.

"Fuck you," she muttered and turned away.

Xander just watched her go, shaking his head. Damn she looked hot - always did. Always would. He rubbed his neck again and gave Faith's backside one more look before moving in the opposite direction. His life was already in the toilet.

He really didn't need to be harassed by a girl he's always had feelings for.and so still did.

* * * *

Faith went down the sidewalk, grumbling to herself. She was sure Xander was going to run off and tell Buffy somehow. She was out of jail for a reason. It was peace. Not only with the other prisoners, but most importantly, within herself. Her only problem was it didn't take much to set her off - especially someone from Sunnydale.

She sighed, knowing she just had to calm herself down. Forget what had just happened, who she just saw. He was an asshole. He didn't know what she went through to get out of jail. She was released, not broken out. And she knew as soon as she stepped out of the prison's grounds, the hardest fight she'd have to face was not giving up.

"Faith," came a voice.

It was Hannah.

"Did you find anything?" she asked, hope in her eyes as she approached the Slayer.

Faith hated seeing that in someone's eyes. Especially when the hope was placed on her. It was some sick irony, the more she thought about it. "No," she stated. "Sorry."

"You're not giving up, are you?" Hannah asked. "Oh, the nest must be around here somewhere."

"Look, I said I'd look around, and I did. Nada. What can I do? You're just gonna have to find help elsewhere." She began to walk away. This wasn't something she had asked for. She wasn't about to jump into the fray of being the Slayer - just yet. The world had one already.

"But I don't understand," Hannah called to her. "You-You said you'd help find her."

"I tried," Faith threw over her shoulder. "I can't do it. I'm not built for the job anymore, okay? Now leave me alone." She kept on walking.

"Wait, no. Please. You're the only one who can help me. Please. You know about them. You know how to fight them." She had to run to catch up to Faith, desperately taking her arm. "Please, Faith. I-I know of a place about two blocks from here. It's like a bar. And there's a guy who owns it who knows things. But he wants money. And I don't have it. Can-can you at least ask him? Maybe you'll have a better chance at getting something."

Faith stopped and looked at Hannah. She almost shook her hand off of her, but saw the desperation in the other woman's eyes. Faith hated it, but she couldn't ignore it. "Where is it?" she asked with a sigh.

* * * *

"Hey there," Dave 'the Bulldog' Benson greeted the hot stranger. "What can I get you?"

Faith leaned on the counter, scanning the area. The place was pretty hopping. "Double shot of scotch, thanks."

"Right, kid. Butterscotch, if I ain't mistaken about your age." He chuckled. "You're out really late. Don't think a pretty thing like you should be out and about this time of night."

"Why? Think vampires might come and eat me?"

Dave was caught by surprise but quickly tried to act like he didn't know what she was talking about. "Funny. Been watching way too many movies, you kids." He made a dismissive gesture. "Get out of here, sweetheart."

Faith reached out and grabbed his wrist before he could move down the counter. "Not until I get some info. I heard you were the one to go to, especially about these imaginary vamps of mine."

Dave tried to pull away but found he couldn't. "What the hell? I'm not insane like you, honey. I don't mess with that goth stuff."

"Insane?" Faith asked, suddenly pissed by his implications. She gripped his wrist harder. "I'm not insane. I'm helping out someone who says you've got some thing on this vamp gang around here. And you're gonna help me or this wrist isn't gonna go home with you tonight."

"Ow!" Dave cried, now really trying to pull away. His hand was losing blood - fast. He was nearly forced to release the rag he held in it, her grip was so strong. "What the hell do you want?"

Suddenly, the back door of the bar burst open and a guy looking ragged and out of breath as if he just ran a marathon came stumbling in, his hand up to his neck. "Help!" he cried. "I just got attacked!"

Dave stared at the guy, then looked over at Faith.

"The guy bit my neck!" the man cried, stumbling into a chair. "Friggin' bit my neck!"

One of the waitresses was nice enough to give him a towel to put over his wound. "Got weirdoes all around here," she explained. "Good thing you got away."

"Some dude's back there! He-he saved me. But I think he's in trouble now."

Faith's eyes leveled with Dave's. "You know something," she said. "You don't' tell me when I get back, you'll fucking be eating your teeth." She let go and went past the other patrons, towards the back door.

"Hey, careful!" the man called to her as the door slammed behind her.

Faith emerged in an alley in the back of Bulldog's. She glanced one way then the other. But she heard the struggle before she actually saw it. She moved quickly yet quietly towards a pile of crates. She rounded the pile when she saw the vampire pushing his victim against the wall, leaning in for the bite.

"Get. off. me!" his victim called, struggling against the vampire's inhuman strength.

"Hey!" Faith called, wanting attention to her.

She got it.

The vampire growled, his yellow eyes toward her in his game face.

The victim's face came into view as she gained his attention as well. "Faith?"

Faith recognized Xander's face. "Oh, for fucking sakes. What the hell are you still doing around here?"

"Getting bitten by a vampire! What does it LOOK like?" he cried.

The vampire, for a moment, glanced from his victim to the girl, wondering what was up. "Can we cut the conversation so I can eat him in peace?" he asked.

In that moment of distraction, Xander kicked the vampire in the shin as hard as he could. He watched as the vampire growled in pain and loosened his grip. That's when Xander let loose a right hook right in the vampire's nose. "Ow!" Xander cried, shaking his hand as the vampire stumbled from the impact.

Faith couldn't help but stand there and watch Xander actually fight back. The guy had learned a thing or two from being best friends with a Slayer. A grin almost left her face but it soon disappeared when the vampire recovered and smacked Xander right back.

As much as she thought it would satisfy her to see Xander get smacked, it angered her instead. She stalked over to the vampire and grabbed him by the back of his jacket and flung him into the pile of crates.

The crates busted into pieces from the impact, the vampire dazed at the sudden turn of events. He shook his head and looked up in time to see Faith hover over him and lay a powerful left hook into his cheek. His neck snapped to the left.

"I got a question for ya'," Faith said, grabbing him by his leather jacket and hauling him to his feet.

"Wha.?" He was disoriented.

She slammed him harshly against the wall. "C'mon, don't conk out on me now, bitch," she intoned, giving him a shake. "Where's your nest?"

"Nest?" the vampire mumbled, haze still over his eyes.

"Yeah. You know, what you bastards lay in when you aren't out biting people. I know you're part of that gang that keeps stealin' children from the homeless, aren't ya'?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Aw, don't do this." She backhanded him, breaking his nose. She felt him start to slump but didn't let him. "I wanna keep you talkin' so don't make me bust your goddamn face!"

"Wh-Who are you?"

"That ain't your concern. Where's your home? Where do you hang out with your other vamp pals?" She shook him again. "Fuck it, tell me!"

The vampire shook his head, trying to clear it. He finally focused on the girl in front of him. He gathered himself enough to realize some girl was beating him up. He growled, baring his fangs in threat.

Faith rolled her eyes then head-butted him, shutting him up quickly. "Don't got time for that," she told him. She glanced over at the busted crates, seeing some pieces of wood near her feet. With a flick of her foot, a good-size length of wood flew up and she caught it with her right hand.

The vampire's eyes widened when she slammed it towards his chest area, only to miss and hit him inches from his heart. He growled in pain, especially when she twisted it slightly.

"I don't miss," Faith warned him. "Next time, I hit my mark, got it? You don't wanna be something for the night guy to sweep up, you talk." She rotated her wrist again.

The vampire hissed, fighting not to scream. "D-Down Crenshaw." he mumbled.


"C-Crenshaw Boulevard. It's on the corner of Crenshaw and-and West Fl- Florence. A-A cemetery."

Faith jerked out the make-shift stake and let him go. "See, that's doin' business in a civilized way." She backed up from him as his hands quickly went up to where she had stabbed him. Her eyes shifted over to the unconscious body of Xander, who lay on his side near where he had been fighting the vampire before she got there.

"Jesus, that hurt!" the vampire complained.

Faith's attention was captured, and she turned and kicked him in the face. Then she leaned toward him before he slumped down and slammed the stake home - hitting her target this time.

The vamp dusted.

She stood there staring at where the vampire had dusted, out-of-left-field thoughts entering her head as she realized where she was to go from there. The vampire had told her what she needed to know - now she promised Hannah she'd go get her daughter back.

No. She promised Hannah she would find out where her daughter was. All she would have to do is find Hannah and tell her what the vampire had told her. It would be simple. Her job would be done.

But . her job wasn't done. It wouldn't feel done.

Hannah couldn't go to the nest and grab her daughter.

Faith had to go and do it. It was up to her to find Hannah's daughter and bring her back to her mother - if it wasn't already too late. She turned to leave the alley when she remembered Xander.

She turned to look at his body again. He shifted a little.

"Hey," she called to him, walking up to him and nudging him with her foot. "Hey, get up."

"Who.?" Xander mumbled, stirring back to consciousness. His eyes fluttered open, and he winced in pain as he moved his very bruised jaw. He lifted his head slightly. "Did I stake him?"

"Hell no. But he's staked all the same." She stood there and waited.

He looked up, blinking. "Oh. Well, that's good." He struggled to sit up, groaning in the process. His hand quickly went up to his throbbing head. "I just needed to find a decent phone."

"All that money and you don't have a cell?"

"Money? What money? Remember, I got mugged on the way here." He shook his head clear and tried to find the wall to assist him to his feet. "Luck just loves to follow me. Tra la la."

With a sigh and seeing he couldn't find the wall, Faith bent over and practically hauled him to his feet. She held on to him when he swayed a little. "You're a goddamn crazy person."

Xander looked over at Faith, the irony of her saying that getting to his dazed head. "And the funny is that it's coming from you," he said. But his voice wasn't harsh or serious.

Just. Xanderish.

"Yeah," was all Faith could muster to say. She let him go. Just as soon as she did that, he nearly fell over, making her automatically grab him again. "Dammit, get a grip."

"I'm trying." He turned his head and realized how close she was to him. He couldn't help but stare, reminded again how fiercely gorgeous she was. Her dark eyes, hair, full lips. what was there NOT to like?

She looked up and found him staring at her, their faces only inches apart. She saw the look he was giving her, and she was uneasy all of a sudden. "Don't do this," she told him quietly, her eyes moving from him.

Xander blinked, pulling away slightly. "Do what?" he asked, innocently. His head was fully cleared. "I think I'm okay now."

She let go, stepping away from him. "Good. Now I gotta bail." She turned to leave.

"Wait," he called to her.

She sighed loudly. "What? Look, Xander, I don't need you on my back 24/7 okay? Just go find your fucking phone and go back to Sunnydale."

He opened his mouth to say something but then thought the better of it. "Fine."

"Good." She turned back around and began walking out of the alley.

"But Faith." Xander began, not moving from his spot. "Why are you doing this?"

"Doing what?"

"Trying to be . better."

She stopped, caught by his words. They weren't sarcastic or cold. They were genuinely curious. "'Cause I learned it's better than trying to be. worse." With that she continued on, leaving Xander in the alley.

* * * *

The nest was easy to find once Faith found the cemetery. The vampires weren't exactly on the down low. In fact, three of them hung around the entrance to the largest crypt in the place, chatting and smoking away on who knows what gets vamps high.

Blood hash, Faith amusingly thought to herself as she crept behind a tall headstone. She checked her jacket, making sure she had a few stakes handy. She didn't know how many were in there, but one thing was for sure, asses were to be kicked.

The familiar feeling of her adrenaline pumping loudly in her veins returned. In many ways, she had been missing it. There was nothing like being in the middle of the action, taking some of the hits but dishing it back fives times as hard with your fists, your feet, your anything.

Was this the gang of vamps she had been looking for the whole time? Was Hannah's little girl inside there?

What did it matter. They were vampires. They were going to be dust.

But just before she could move a muscle, a figure came towards the door holding a little, scared boy in his grasps. With her sharp hearing, Faith could hear the sniffles from him, the shake in each hiccup as he tried not to cry.

Then she felt her whole body grow taut in reaction to what she was seeing. and how she was feeling.

The one who had brought the boy entered the crypt after exchanging a few words with the ones guarding the crypt. The three waited until he entered before resuming their conversation.

"Alright, you motherfuckers," Faith muttered, anger coursing through her body. "You wanna deal with kids, I've got a few right here." She grasped her stakes tightly as she emerged from her hidden place and drew total attention to herself. "Yo, bastards!"

The three vampires looked up in surprise.

"What the hell?" the one in a red jacket asked, exchanging confused looks with the other two.

Faith stalked over to them, her stride long and determined. Her presence was confusing the vampires more than she thought. They just stood there dumbly, waiting to see what she wanted.

But what she wanted was her fist in each of their faces. And she got what she wanted.

They all fell from the hit they received, one slamming against the wall of the crypt, the other two sprawling out onto the ground. Barely having time to clear their heads, they tried to scramble clumsily to their feet.

Faith caught one by his hair and slammed her knee into his nose as she pushed his head into her knee. His face busted on contact. She jerked him back up, exposing his chest and she staked him easily.

Right as he burst into dust, the second vampire came up behind her and grabbed her in a bear hug, lifting her off her feet. "You're in over your head, girl," he growled.

"Funny you should say that," Faith sneered. Bending her knees, she placed her feet flat on his stomach and pushed herself up and over, doing a tumble straight over his head so that she landed behind him. He couldn't help but release her with the way she twisted his arms in the impossible maneuver. If he didn't let go, his back would break in half.

Faith kicked him straight in the back before he could turn around, sending him slamming into the third one in the red jacket as he attempted to join in the fray. They both collapsed onto the ground.

She moved toward them, kneeling down, and punched them each in the face. "You got kids in there?" she asked, gripping both their necks in her hands and pinning them to the ground.

The vampires were still in a stupor from the fight she had put up - and was actually winning.

"What does it matter to you?" the one in the red jacket asked, his yellow eyes looking into her angry face.

"Guess that's a 'yes,' then," she replied, letting go only to slam her stake into each of them before they could react.

She got to her feet and went over to the crypt's wooden door. It didn't withstand her powerful kick and broke into pieces on contact. It was dark in there. Even with the door busted in and a few lit candles, it was still hard to see. But as soon as the door burst open, the candles blew out, leaving the place in darkness.

There were about ten in the first room. But she could see there was a back room where three more stuck their head out by the sound. They all had the same look on their faces, however. Surprise. Shock. Confusion.

It was fine by Faith. Made it a little easier to deal with.

And she did just that - dealt with them. Well, the first three that were too busy looking for an answer to the attack to counter attack. They were dust within the half minute that passed.

By then, the others began to pull themselves together and close in on her as she stood at the doorway in a fighting stance.

One attacked her from the side, tackling her to the ground. They both rolled and hit the left sidewall.

"That fucking HURT!" she cried, backhanding him off of her. She sprung to her feet and saw a bust of some person to her right on a column. She grabbed it in her hand and hurled it at the two in front of her. It busted while knocking them back with enough force to slam into two others.

Another came at her, a sword in his hand. With it being dark, it was a bit more difficult to anticipate attacks than if it was a lit area. She didn't see the gleam of the sword until it was heading toward her arm. She barely had time to move. The blade sliced through her jacket, skimming her actual arm.

She twirled away, backhanding another as he tried to attack her with a bat. As he fell, she grabbed the wooden object out of his grasp and began playing vampire baseball.

With swings that would break all home run records, she managed to make five or six vampires take flight almost across the crypt. One actually hit the ceiling and landed at her feet with a thud.

One of the few with the sword had backed away when his pals began to fly around. He signaled to the others in the back. "Get the girl and boy out of here!" he ordered. Then he took a fake deep breath and gripped his sword to attack the girl - well, who LOOKED like a plain girl.

Faith saw the sword again coming at her and she held up the bat between her hands out in front of her. The sword buried itself into the wood, locking the blade good. The vampire tried to pull it out but not before a heavy booted foot slammed into his chest, sending him flying back, making him lose his hold on the hilt.

"Thanks," Faith said, taking the hilt. She smashed the bat/sword combo against the wall, making the bat splinter in two. With one hand holding the sword, and the other holding the skinnier part of the broken bat, she was really ready to wail.

Some of the ones that had taken flight earlier were regaining their bearings. They began to attack her again.

That was the chance two vampires took, heeding the leader's orders. They grabbed the little girl and the little boy and carried them towards the only door of the crypt.

Above the mass of vampires and the darkness, Faith saw them as they reached the door. "NO!" she cried, slicing the blade through three vampires' necks. That girl had to be Hannah's little girl. And even if it wasn't, she wasn't about to let the bastards take them away.

But five more were on her. Even as she blasted an elbow under one and kicked one away from her, she saw they were already out the door. Two more clawed at her, trying to keep her back. One even going so much as shoving her against the wall while two others pinned her by her arms, trying to make her let go of the sword and bat.

Faith felt herself begin to panic a bit, to be surrounded by vampires and to know she had failed at helping out when, really, it's what she wanted to do. Not to let Hannah down. To prove Buffy, Xander, Angel, anyone she owed an apology to for her past acts, wrong. That she has gotten better, she has tried.

And most importantly, to prove all that to herself.

After all, she was still standing, still fighting back because she was a Slayer. One of two in the world. But around here, she was THE Slayer.

And in the moment, Faith grasped that title and head butted the vampire in front of her who was trying to take a bite. And the vampires on each arm? It'd take a hell of a lot more than that to hold either arm back.

Finally finding the Slayer strength in her upper limbs, she pushed against each vampire, successfully shoving them away from her. She kicked one in the chest and twirled around, blade out, and cut right through three more necks.

As soon as they dusted, however, Faith ignored the three that were left standing and bolted out the door, desperately hoping the other vampires hadn't gone too far with the kids. She rushed out of the crypt and quickly surveyed the immediate area.

And to her surprise, the two kids were seated next to the large tomb Faith had been hiding behind earlier. They were both clutching at each other, silently crying in fear.

"What the.?" Faith murmured, her eyes scanning the area. The vampires just left them there?

The kids' eyes widened and they both screamed and pointed to something behind Faith.

The Slayer turned around and saw the last three were going in on her. One had another bat and slammed it into her shoulder, making her stumble back a few feet. That one really hurt. She took another hit in the cheek from another's fist.

But she held onto both her weapons and let the hits ignite another burst of energy in her. She flung the bat like a spear and it impaled the furthest vampires right in the chest, the one with the bat. She held the sword in both her hands and grinned wickedly at the two vampires who realized they were the only ones left.

"W-Who are you?" one of them asked.

"I'm getting that question a lot, lately," she answered, ignoring the trickle of blood dribbling from her lip. "Let's just say, you don't gotta know 'cause you aren't gonna live long enough to spread the word." She took one step forward and the vampires took three steps back, almost cowering in fear.

She liked that. It's the way it should be.

"Here, catch," she said, flinging the only sword towards them. As she anticipated, their yellow eyes watched it fly up towards them, hope in their eyes. But that soon disappeared as she rushed them and roundhouse kicked them both across their distracted faces. As she finished her 360 turn, she reached up and snatched the sword from the air and back swung the blade at their necks.

The last of the vampire gang were gone.

She stood there a moment, her breath actually coming fast and hard. But not from fatigue; just from the rush of the fight.

She turned around, wiping the blood from her mouth, and saw the kids still staying close to the tomb. "Hey, I ain't gonna hurt you," she said. She slowly approached them, then saw the fear in their eyes. She realized she was still holding onto the sword. She tossed it to one side. "Sorry."

The simple act seemed to calm them down a little.

Enough so that she was able to get close enough to kneel in front of them. "You kids okay?"

The boy nodded, still holding onto the little girl's hand. "Are you a superhero?" he asked, incredulously.

The question caught Faith by surprised. No one had ever considered her, much less called her a hero. "Um. a hero in progress, maybe. But you can call me Faith."

The boy nodded. "I'm Jimmy. And this is Rachel. We both got taken from our mommies by those monsters."

"Rachel," Faith repeated, and she saw the large brown eyes of the girl look to her. No mistaken they were her mom's. "Is your Mom's name Hannah?"

The girl nodded vigorously.

Faith smiled. "Well, well, she's looking for you. Whatta you say I take you both to your moms? I'm sure they're worrying like hell." She reached out a hand to Rachel.

The little girl looked to the boy who she seemed to trust at the moment. Jimmy nodded and Rachel held out her arms.

She wanted to be carried.

It was a long way back to Hannah's block.

Faith reached out an arm to her and with her other hand, thrust her thumb towards her back. "Jimmy, wanna piggy back ride?"

Jimmy smiled excitedly and got to his feet and rushed over to hop on Faith's back. It hurt her at first, the bangs and scrapes from the fight, but she let the pain subside. She made sure he was adjusted on her back and stood up, scooping Rachel in her less aching arm.

As Faith made her way further from the crypt, she couldn't help but wonder how many kids she didn't save. For now, however, it hardly mattered.

Right now, she focused on the two kids she was able to save.

* * * *

Faith sighed as she walked down the sidewalk, her body feeling like a hundred bulls had just run over it. Her jacket had been torn during the brawl but she really didn't care. Hannah's girl wasn't harmed too much. Sure she'd be fucked up for a bit just from getting attacked by vampires, but the kid was alive.

And Faith's jacket just didn't matter in the long run.

She approached the run down apartment building she called 'home' and slowed when she saw the figure sitting on the stairs. "What the hell are you still doing here?"

Xander looked up from the magazine he was reading that looked like he just picked up off the street. "I guess this is the right place." He put the magazine down and stood up, wiping his pants. "I told you, I'm stuck. I don't have a car or the money to get it fixed."

"So? You got pals back home that have a car. Call 'em up and tell him to get your ass off my steps." She walked towards the stairs, ready to ignore him.

"I also told you, I'm on summer vacay. So pretty much, I'm not going anywhere."

Faith leveled her gaze with him, running her hand through her hair, wincing from the slash in her arm. She was thoroughly confused at the moment. "You wanna spend your summer in a dumpy part of L.A.? And you said my mind was fucked?"

He shrugged. "Well, it happened to me before. My car breaking down, and everything. I had to work to get the money to fix it and get back to Sunnydale. I. the time I spent working, I learned a lot about myself and my life. I just think. I need that right now."

"Whatta you mean? You've got the friends, the girl, the roof. What more can you ask for?"

"A place. In life, I mean. Yeah, I help Buffy and Willow and it's all good. We just defeated this major baddie. A Frankenstein robo-nightmare. And yeah, I helped and stuff - but before then, I wasn't much of anything." His eyes weren't looking at her, maybe making it easier on himself. "Anya. she had left me before the big showdown. Making it work was almost like making Vanilla Ice hip again. It was for the best, but it still hurts like hell."

Faith really didn't know what to say. Did she want to feel sorry for him? Not really. "Hey, that's life and all."

"Yeah. I guess. So. I decided to go off on my own again, clear my head. Tried to get away from Sunnydale. But darn car trouble always gets me."

Faith was still not on the same page as him. "Xander, why the hell did you come to me - again? Why are you still here? Isn't hanging out with a psycho killer not on your list of things to do on your summer vacation?"

Xander seemed a little stung by the words but then he nodded. "Not really." He took a step down. "Look, I'm sorry I bothered you." He looked at her a moment then continued down the stairs.

That's when Faith saw the slash in the back of his jacket, a bit of blood soaked through the cloth and the limp he had as he walked away. He didn't have either when she saw him last. "Whoa, hold up."

He stopped and turned around. "What?"

"How'd your jacket get torn?" she asked curiously.

Xander automatically reached around to pull at his jacket and hissed in pain from the motion. He let the pain subside and shrugged. "I've been telling you about my luck, right?"

"You were there, weren't you?" she asked.


"The crypt. The vamp nest. You were there." It began to make sense, if it was true. The vampires who had taken the kids hadn't just LEFT them there. They were stopped.

"I don't know what you're." He saw the glare he was getting and paused, staring down on the ground with a shrug. "Yeah, okay. So I was. I figured you needed help."

"I don't ever fucking need help," she snapped, angrily before she could stop herself. "Especially not from you."

Xander put his hands up in defense. "I know, I know. I wanted to help out the little girl, okay? If it makes you feel any better, I only took out two vampires. Not exactly Mr. Vampire Slayer - or Mr. Vampire with a Soul, for that matter." He backed up. "I'll see you around."

Faith watched him from the stairs, noting the awkward walk of pain he had but trying to ignore it. "See ya'." She began to go up the stairs and shut her eyes. How could she let him go like that? The guy had risked his stupid life to save the little girl and boy. If it weren't for him, Rachel and Jimmy would not be with their moms like they were tonight. She would not have gotten the tearful 'thank you's' she got tonight - both from the moms and the kids. "Xander," she called.

"Yes?" He stopped and looked at her.

"You do know you're bleeding." She opened her lids and turned towards him. "And you're walking around like a fucking pathetic chimp."

"Yeah. I know."

"You gonna get that fixed?"

His expression didn't change. Neither did his voice. "You care?"

She downcast her eyes a moment then looked up at him again, voice soft. "Enough."

For some reason, that got Xander. He just stood there for what seemed like minutes, not knowing how to take it. "Um, well, do you happen to know of a good hospital that doesn't take money?" he asked, hopefully.

With a sigh, Faith gestured to him. "Nope. But I do know I've got a first aid kit and some ice packs in my place that might help." She started up the stairs again.


She reached the door and opened it, then realized he was still standing there dumbly. "Are you fucking coming or what?"

His head snapped up and realized what she just hinted. "OH." He approached the stairs and began to walk up them. As he passed her when she held the door open for him, he paused, giving her a small smile. "Thanks," he said to her quietly.

She shrugged indifferently. "Hey, it's better than trying to be worse, right?"

She let go of the handle and let the rusty door shut behind them.