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

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Faith or any of other characters from "Buffy" and/or "Angel." They all belong to the incredible genius of Joss Whedon.

Episode Six: I Died Just a Little

"Go, go, go!"

Feet pattered loudly in the emptiness of the alleyway.

Three pairs, to be exact.

They ran for what they were worth, hitting the pavement in what SHOULD'VE been a nice rhythmic pattern - if they weren't running desperately for their lives.

Their unlives, to be exact.

"We left Sunnydale for THIS?" the first vampire cried.

"Gary said better here than there!" the second one announced.

"How was I supposed to know?" Gary retorted. "You figure, Hellmouth, Slayer - anywhere but there!" He slammed on the brakes of his feet when a figure appeared at the end of the alley.

The other two slammed into him, but all kept their balance.

"Shit!" the first vampire cried, backing away.

"Wait!" Gary cried, holding up his arms to try and keep the other two from bolting. His yellow eyes didn't leave the figure who continued to stand there, almost TOO patiently. "There are three of us. Three against one - it's not fair, but to us, it's right."

"Uh. well. I dunno," the first one mumbled.

"Did anyone ever tell you guys that you're a bunch of dumbasses?" the figured quipped, twirling a stake in her hand. "You really think that anything less than an army of you guys is gonna make it a 'fair' fight.for you?"

The first vampire didn't want to hang around anymore. He turned and ran back in the direction he had come from.

The girl threw the stake with deadly speed and deadlier accuracy. It whizzed right between the two vampires left behind and impaled itself almost right THROUGH the chest of the fleeing vampire.

He dusted.

The vampires watched their companion "fall" and turned back around towards the girl in red, leather pants and a tighter black tank top, showing off the one exposed tattoo on her right upper arm.

She continued to grin at them, lifting her brows. "Looks like it's getting even a little MORE unfair to you."

Gary let out a growl and lunged at the girl, fangs bared. He tried to grab her arm, but her foot connected harshly with his cheek. He stumbled back as two powerful hands shoved him into the wall. He growled in pain and punched the girl in the face harshly.

Her head snapped back as the second vampire kicked her in the back, sending her right into Gary again.

Gary began to grin until he saw the girl grinning back despite her split lip. "What are you smiling about?" he asked, holding her tightly by both arms.

"It's 'cause you're pissing me off," she said. She swung her arms out, breaking his hold easily and head-butted him in the face. She turned the tables and grabbed him by both arms. "Gotta hate it for you when I get pissed off." Swinging him around, she tossed him into the one behind her.

They both fell on top of each other, knocking over three garbage cans.

She walked up to them and slammed a stake into Gary right away.

The last vampire got to his feet within seconds, backing away from her, fear in his face. "Uh, I-I know you. F-Faith, right? W-Worked for the Mayor of Sunnydale?"

The dark-haired girl stood there, stake still in hand. She looked at him, a sneer on her face. "Yeah. So?"

The vampire seemed a bit relaxed that he was right about his assumption. "Hey, uh, yeah, I heard about all that. Back in Sunnydale. You tried to raise up that big snake, fought against the other Slayer and her friends, and did all this cool stuff. You were on our side, and-and I gotta say, I respect you for that, girl. Really, in fact." He smiled. "My cousin was part of the Mayor's group. Got killed in the big fight, but you and that Wilkins really knew how to throw down. Sorry he died and all, though."

Faith lowered her stake, staring at him as if he had just told her he was ANOTHER vampire with a soul. (What are the odds of THAT happening?) "You knew about all that," she stated.

The vampire nodded. "Oh, hell, yeah. I mean, if you survive Sunnydale, you got a lot of stories to tell. You're down in history books, Faith."

She stepped towards him, face indifferent. "Am I?"

"Yeah. Always wanted to shake your hand for a job well done. Well, except when you had to fight the other Slayer. I thought you could've won that one easily, though."

Faith had taken two steps closer to him while he rambled on. She reached out and took his hand, feeling his cold skin against hers.

He flinched at the sudden movement, but stared at her in question as she began to shake his hand. "Oh, uh. yeah." He mimicked her gesture with a smile, now in total ease with her - until he heard the bones in his hand crack. "Hey! OW!" He tried to pull away but more bones were crushed from her grip.

Faith leaned in, glaring hard at him. "What I did back in Sunnydale's part of my past. But it ain't a past I want brought up ever again, you get me? NEVER." She broke the last of the bones in his hand but still didn't let up. "Part of me's sorry the Bos. I mean, Wilkins died, but he's also something I never want brought up again. I ain't one of you, or on your fucking side, got it? I never was. I'm on MY side, always have been. And my side don't include you fanged bastards praising me for ANYTHING."

She backhanded him harshly across the face with the one that held the stake. She let go of his useless hand, the momentum from her hit making him fall into the trash cans again. She walked over and kicked him once in the thigh. "I'm not her anymore! That chick you knew back then, I'm not her."

Then she slammed the stake into his chest, watching him turn to dust.

She stood there a moment, the words still lingering in her head. "I'm not her," she whispered. She let out a breath and turned and walked out of the alley, her duty done.

* * * *


One member of Relin's gang had followed Faith like he was ordered, covering the three block sector he was assigned. And perched atop the fire escape three stories up from where Faith and the vampires were, he definitely had something that would finally make Relin happy.

With a grin of his own, he made sure Faith was gone and began to climb down.

* * * *

"Wanna play that punch buggy game?" Faith asked as she bit into her second sub sandwich.

Xander Harris was in mid-bite of his when he looked over at her, brows raised. He ripped off the chunk. "You kidding me?" he asked, mouth full. "Last time we tried to play it again, you almost knocked me into traffic."

"Oh, c'mon. I'll go easy on ya'."

"You said those same words before my brush with death in the street."

"Yeah, I also say those words before we have sex," she teased with a wink.

Xander nudged her with his elbow. "Please, like you HAVE to go easy?" He kissed her on the temple before returning to his sandwich. The two brunettes were seated atop Xander's car, just as the sun began to rise. One thing they enjoyed was this time, to see another day come. To have similar schedules helped. And time together just got better with each sunrise.

"I gotta ask you a question, Xander," she said after a moment.

Xander popped a chip in his mouth, loving how they could get lunch food for breakfast. "Yeah?"

"You and the chick, Anya."

Xander froze a bit, already feeling uncomfortable with the subject. But he finished his chewing and attempted to be casual. "What about her?"

"What happened between you two?" She took a bite of her sub and looked at him expectantly, yet remained as casual as he pretended to be. She was just asking to be curious, not suspicious. He hadn't ever mentioned Anya's name before; he was obviously over her.

And Faith felt that.

Still, the question unnerved Xander. "Uh, well, what happened was. we just. we didn't feel the same way about each other."

"Meaning she had the hots for you but you didn't have the hots for her."

"I thought I did," he admitted. "At first. then I just realized. maybe I didn't." He shifted uneasily. "She just felt forced on me. Yeah, we went to prom together, and we had a great time. But she bolted soon after that."

"Why?" Faith asked.

Xander looked at her, brows raised. "Well, apocalypses usually don't bode happiness and flowers - especially since she knew the grandioso of . the Mayor's ascension." He looked away, another subject that left him uneasy.

Both of them now.

"Oh, yeah." Faith stared down at her boots.

"Anyway, she came back and she wanted this whole big relationship. And. maybe I was a little too on the hasty side when I said 'yeah, okay.' Point is, she and I just didn't click. We both tried, but it was like forcing two unconnecting puzzle pieces together - from different puzzles."

"And you and me." She looked at him. "We fit?"

"It's obvious, isn't it? Except I'm more of a middle piece and you're an edgier piece. Makes for a better metaphor."

Faith grinned. "So where'd she go? You broke up with her?"

"Yeah. It was for the best. She wasn't too happy, though." He looked at his hands, remembering the look she had given him when he told her it wasn't working out. She was an ex-vengeance demon; she knew what pain looked like and felt like. He didn't want to do that to her, but it was the only thing he could do.

Those nights where they made love were wonderful; but the afterwards are what got him. They bickered. They even insulted each other just to keep the other one quiet. He let most of it slide at first because he knew Anya was still getting over the fact she was human again.

But there was a moment where Xander wondered if she TRIED to love him so she could feel human. Yes, it was obvious they cared for each other. The unobvious was if they were IN love with each other.

Faith turned back to her sandwich. "Cool."

"Cool?" Xander asked, looking at her. "You mean, that's it?"

Faith looked up at him, confused. "That's it?"

"Yeah. No prodding and digging questions out of me to find out if I still think about her and love her and stuff? You know, things that new girlfriends do when asking about old ones. Because it gets dangerous if it simmers too long: the questions, the doubts, the. other things."

Faith laughed, seeing how shook up he was with her being fine with it. "Xander, I got no doubts. One thing about this new life shit I'm sure about is you and me."


"Besides, she shows her face and tries to take you back, she'll be sure to get all her ass kicked." She bit into her food, finishing the last of her sandwich.

"Oh." But he slowly began to smile. His eyes watched as a car came down the street they were facing. He hit her in the arm. "Punch buggy red," he announced.

Faith looked up to confirm. "Damn! Hey, I thought you said you didn't want to play."

"Yeah, I also said I believed in Santa Claus at one time." He smiled victoriously.

"You mean, he ain't real?" Faith asked, eyes wide.

Xander's smile faded, seeing the shock in her face. "You. didn't know?"

Faith shoved him, playfully, laughing again. "Jesus, Xander, you think I'm a fucking idiot!"

Xander nearly fell off the hood of the car until Faith grabbed his arm to keep him from going anywhere. He let out a sigh of relief, not really wanting to land on the ground, headfirst. "Boy, even not playing the game is dangerous." He noticed she hadn't let go of his arm and met her gaze.

She leaned in and kissed him, carefully pushing him back against the windshield. "I like danger."

Xander smiled when she pulled back a moment. "Yeah, I'm beginning to like it, too." He kissed her again. "Why does the punch buggy game always lead to make-out sessions?"

"Why do you think I wanna play it all the time?"

"Evil, conniving broad," he teased.

Not many words were said after that.

* * * *

"She's a what?" Relin asked the guy standing in front of him.

"A Slayer." Anderson had been the one who observed the fight between Faith and the three vampires. "I don't know what that is, but she claims to have done some bad shit in her past. The vampire was practically giving her a high five - until she broke his hand." He grimaced at the sound it had made in the empty alley.

"A Slayer." Relin mumbled. "I don't know what that is, either, but she's caused too much trouble. The bitch needs to learn a lesson. I'll mention it to the boss, see what he says, but as far as I'm concerned, she's mine." He stood up from behind the desk. "Anderson, get some of the other guys together. I want your little group to help me out with this. The boss needs time to gather what he needs for his. deal. I don't want her fucking with it or my ass is gone."

Anderson nodded. "What are we gonna do? We can't get close enough to her to do anything."

Relin rounded the desk. "You can sometimes get to a person without laying a hand on them. Let's move."

* * * *

The police officer eyed the two young brunettes carefully as he peered over his ticket pad. "You do know this is a public area, right?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," Xander answered, his button up shirt not quite buttoned correctly - because of the haste to get certain clothes back on. He wasn't looking directly at the taller police officer as they stood in front of the station wagon.

Faith stood next to him, her tank top a bit rustled at the bottom. She pulled down at it, trying to hold back the grin threatening her lips. She, too, was looking every which way except the cop. No use getting caught for something so minor.

"We just didn't think it was. you know THAT public," Xander tried to explain, worriedly looking at what the man was writing. "I mean, with the babies in strollers and the kids. we didn't know it'd be a G-Rated audience for such a. well, I guess PG-13. scene."

"I'd put that to be about an R-Rating, Mr. Harris. Would you like for me to explain why?"

"NO! Uh, thanks," Xander quickly amended.

"I think we know, anyhoo," Faith slipped in with a smirk.

The cop glared at Faith then folded up his ticket pad. "Well, next time you decide to make the hood of your car a spectacle for all to see, make sure it isn't indecent, okay?"

Xander nodded vigorously. "Sir, yes, sir." He almost saluted him, but stopped himself, just glad there wasn't a ticket given.

When the cop left in his squad car, Faith burst out laughing, having to double over.

Xander watched her, shaking his head. "Oh, God, we almost got a freaking ticket and you're laughing?"

"Sorry, dude, but. that's never happened before!" She calmed down, though the grin on her face wasn't leaving anytime soon. She wrapped her arms around his neck, looking at him in the eyes, that mischievous glint still in hers. "As many times as I've done that, this is the first time I got caught."

"Oh, yes, please, bring up the many, many times you've done it with other guys." He rolled his eyes, attempting to pull away as if annoyed.

But Faith wasn't letting him go. She took his other hand and turned his chin so that he faced her again. "Hey. Would it make any difference if I told ya' I wouldn't wanna be caught with anyone else?"

Xander looked up a moment in thought then smiled. "And pass up a chance to hear you say something so mushy?" He kissed her again. "Of course it makes a HUGE difference."

Then they began kissing again.

Xander pulled away. "Whoa! Don't want to be caught again. We're wanted criminals now."

Faith's face fell a little at the analogy, but she shook it off.

Xander caught it, however, and tried to meet her gaze. "Hey, I'm sorry," he said softly.

Faith shrugged. "It's cool. It's not like you were far off from the truth or anything."

"Don't think like that, Faith. You're not a bad guy. You're a very good one. You're a hero, okay? That's where you've always been, you just kinda got lost a bit."

She looked up at him. "You really believe that, huh?"

"Yeah, I do." He lightly kissed her on the forehead. "I believe in you, so really, where's the crime there? And if there is, then I'm a hardened criminal."

She smiled again. "You know, speaking of 'harden,' wanna continue what we started before we were interrupted back at our place?" She raised a brow, invitingly.

"Does 'hell, yeah' mean anything?"

"Let's go then." She put a hand on his chest then turned to walk back to the car.

Xander watched her longingly. He really, really did love that girl. It didn't matter if he thought he was living in some weird dream where he did get the hot girl. It was just as well if he never woke up. Fishing in his pocket for the keys, he decided there was something he wanted to tell her very soon.

* * * *

Paul gathered the papers on his desk and put them neatly on a pile on the side. Business hadn't been all that great lately. But it wasn't like he needed the money to run the place.

"What's up?" came the voice in the doorway.

He looked up with a smile. "Hello, Faith. Everything going okay?"

"Yeah," she said coming into the place she had become so familiar and comfortable with. "Dropped off Xander at Patrick's and came to see if everything's okay with you." She sat down in the chair, propping her feet up on Paul's desk.

Paul gave her a look.

She promptly put them down. "Sorry." She adjusted her self in a less comfortable position on the seat. "So, you got something for me to kick around?"

"I've been monitoring some supernatural activity over near the docks. It might be some smuggling of ancient artifacts, or drugs. I'd put my bets on the ancient artifacts."

Faith frowned a little. "Well, that doesn't sound good. Why they smuggling things?"

"Well, if sources are correct, ancient artifacts usually mean very big trouble. Putting various artifacts together doesn't bode to a party."

"Well, it only is if I get to crash it." She grinned.

"Well, then, I guess you'd like to join me in observing the docks tonight?"

"Ain't got nothing better to do." She stood up just as the phone on Paul's desk rang.

Paul picked it up. "Hello..? Yes, this is he. Well, no, actually I'm not interes." Brows knitted together. "Who is this? I want to know who this is. How did you -?" He cut himself off as the dial tone filled the earpiece.

"What is it?" Faith asked, not liking the expression on his face as he hung up.

"I... I don't know who that was but." He looked at her, face filled with concern. "Hannah's in trouble."

"What?" Faith stepped towards the desk. "Whatta you mean? What'd they say?"

"Something along the lines of. 'How do the homeless become even more homeless?' I don't know what that means but whoever it was knew I knew you because he said to make sure I let you know. They also knew about Hannah."

Faith straightened. "No," she muttered. "Fuck it!" She went towards the door. "I gotta get there!"

"Go. I'll follow soon."

But she wasn't there to hear him.

* * * *

"Do you think this would go better here?" Amber asked, placing a slightly cracked flower pot alongside the makeshift nightstand.

Hannah looked up from her box of newly gathered things, admiring an old nightgown. "It would be so much nicer with an actual flower in it."

Amber smiled. "Yes, it would. I can go tell Kelly to get us one from the garden she found."

"In the morning. It's much too late now." She looked around the open area of one of the sections of the old warehouse which served as her, Amber's, and Rachel's sleeping area, along with five others who were out and about. "Rachel? Where are you, sweetie?"

The 8-year-old girl emerged from behind a cardboard box she pretended was her castle, holding onto a purple dinosaur.

"Come here," Hannah said, holding out her arms. "It's bedtime."

Rachel frowned, almost into a pout, clearly telling her mom she wanted to play more.

Hannah gave her a look. "Don't be stubborn now. I need to get sleep myself." She glanced back at her best friend. "Did I tell you? I might be able to find a job at the restaurant." She gathered Rachel in her arms, giving her a quick hug for luck then gently placed the dinosaur on the cot.

Amber grinned. "That's wonderful!"

"We'll see. Finding something clean to wear to be interviewed is really."

A person rushed into the room, making them all turn towards the doorway.

Rachel flinched from fright, automatically grabbing her mother's hand for safety.

Hannah blinked. "Faith. What are you -?"

"We gotta get outta here," Faith urged Hannah as she began to nudge them towards the doorway to get to the main area of the warehouse.

Hannah looked confused as did Rachel who held onto her mother's hand tightly. "What? Faith, why?"

"You guys are in trouble. Paul got a weird call. I dunno, I just know you gotta go. Tell your pals. Everyone here." She reached down and picked up Rachel in her arm while grabbing onto Hannah's wrist. "Go!" she ordered Amber.

Amber nodded and went into the main area, telling everyone they had to evacuate, even though she didn't know what was going on.

Rachel squirmed in Faith's hold, reaching out for something as they were about to exit the large room of the abandoned warehouse.

"What is it?" Faith asked, anxiously.

"Her stuffed animal," Hannah answered right away. "The dinosaur you gave her. She-she left it on her cot."

"Forget it!" Faith cried, moving on.

Rachel shook her head and squirmed even more, trying to lean over Faith's shoulder towards the cot that held her dinosaur.

"She-she really needs it," Hannah insisted, seeing the distress on her daughter's face. She frowned and stopped. "I'll get it."

Faith turned. "What? Hell, no -"

But the mother was already half way there. She quickly grabbed the stuffed animal and just as she turned around, something burst through the window. In fact, a lot of some things.

Two containers filled with some kind of liquid busted as soon as it landed right in the center between Hannah and Faith, and some other things with fire attached to them.

The whole room was soon engulfed in flames.

Rachel's eyes went wide, watching the flames draw a curtain between her and her mother. She began to reach out again, this time more desperately.

Faith's own eyes watched in surprise, hearing other windows from elsewhere in the building busting out, more homeless people screaming in fear and surprise.

"Motherfucker," Faith said. She had to get Hannah out of there. She was not going to leave Rachel without a mother and Faith without a friend.

One homeless guy rushed by and Faith grabbed him firmly by the arm. "Take her!" she ordered.

He winced at her hold, but he just wanted to get out of the building. "But."

"Fuck it, there are no 'buts' here! Take her. Meet me across the street!" She pushed the little girl into the man's arms. "It's okay, hon," she assured the scared young girl who was struggling not to be put there. "I'll go get your mom." She pulled the man closer to her by his collar. "You lose her, I swear to God, I'll rip your head off. Now GO!" She gave him a little nudge and he held onto the girl and ran into the crowd.

She turned, the flames so high, she couldn't see Hannah at all. "Hannah!"

"Faith! Help!"

Faith looked around, trying to find a shorter portion of the barricade of fire. She moved quickly to the right, trying to beat the fire before it reached the far wall. She pumped her legs as hard as possible, then leapt up and over the flames onto the other side.

She spotted Hannah trying to back away as far as possible, clutching the dinosaur to her chest like Rachel always did.

"Hannah! Over here!" Faith cried, gesturing her to come to her before they were totally blocked in.

Hannah heard her voice and raced down the length of the wall of fire. She reached Faith, out of breath and already coughing from the smoke and heat in general. She grabbed Faith's arm. "What do we do?"

Faith could see the place where she had jumped over was already too tall for her to do it again. She grabbed Hannah's hand and pulled her further down, towards the far wall. The entire warehouse was a huge bonfire, everything these people had found and cherished, even though they may have been another's trash, was slowly burning away.

But Faith couldn't think about that. She just had to get Hannah out of there, alive. She could hear the woman already begin to falter to the smoke, which wasn't doing too good to Faith's own lungs. She coughed a few times. "C'mon," she urged, grabbing Hannah's wrist and pulling her to the end of the room.

They reached the far wall. One of the main reasons the room was burning so quickly was because the walls dividing the rooms within the warehouse were made of the fake, thin wood.

Faith put her hand up to the wall, gauging it. The fire was licking at their skin now, and it was only a matter of time. She backed up, letting go of Hannah for a moment, and let loose a powerful kick into the wall. It buckled and cracked, splitting easily. But another kick destroyed it totally, revealing the next room over, which was also being engulfed in flames - though it was large enough to take its time.

Taking Hannah's wrist again, Faith pulled her into that room and saw a front window ahead. "Come on!" she cried, hearing things creak and crash behind them. Things were beginning to fall apart.

Hannah was now having trouble breathing but she followed close behind Faith, clutching her daughter's treasured dinosaur. Through the haze, she saw a body lying still on the floor. "Oh, my God. Faith, there's someone there!" She pointed to the figure, almost getting her arm pulled out when she tried to stop.

Following where the woman was pointing at, the Slayer also saw him. "Shit. Stay here," she ordered then took off to the unconscious man. She had to ignore the intense heat on her bare arms and the feeling that her leather pants were melting right into her legs. As she came up to the man, she saw that a beam had fallen on him.

Not wasting any time, she reached down and grabbed the large beam. The wood was hot and sanded not too well. She felt the splinters entering into her fingers and she cringed, but only for a second. If she didn't get the guy out of there soon, splinters would be the least of her worries.

The beam wasn't moving right away. Other beams had also collapsed and weren't stably in place around her. In fact, as she began to move this beam, another one was threatening to fall after it. Faith saw this and stopped only a moment. She was just going to have to move faster. She began to cough harder than last time, the smoke getting worse.

She had to use nearly all her strength to get the hundreds of pounds off the guy's lower half. Lifting the entire thing off of him just enough, she braced herself and threw it over into the blaze that was heading quickly towards them. Although her arms were tired, she knew she had to keep going, couldn't stop. The beam that hovered above them began to make its descent downward.

Faith grabbed the guy and jerked him off the ground by the back of his jacket, flinging herself back to get enough momentum. She felt the wind of the beam as it landed right where the guy would've been just as his body landed on top of hers.

Letting out a sigh, she picked up the man and flung him over her shoulder and ran towards Hannah. Her legs hurt, as did her arms and lungs. She found the woman slumping against the wall.

"Hannah, don't do this!" Faith cried, grasping Hannah's arm and shaking her. "C'mon, girlfriend, you gotta get yourself outta here."

Hannah's eyes barely could stay open, and the shake only put her in a coughing fit.

Faith climbed the crates that led up to the window. "Let's go!" She reached down and helped Hannah up. Another beam landed near them, a fresh new blaze nearly eating them up as it caught the crates on fire.

She shoved Hannah up and over the window and did the same, having to land clumsily to the ground with the man over her shoulder. She saw the others were across the street and Hannah was already on her way there.

When she reached the other side of the street, she had to collapse.

All once inhabitants of the warehouse stared at their only place of sanctuary going down in the fire.

"Faith, are you okay?" Hannah asked, rushing to her side after telling some of them to help the man whom Faith saved. She was recovering a bit from the smoke herself.

Faith continued to cough, getting anything in her lungs out. She held up her hand as she nodded. "Just got some shit in my throat," she managed to say. "Everyone okay?"

"Yes. Thanks to you."


"She's here. She's with Amber." Hannah looked over at what little she had left. "Oh, God. Who did this?"

Faith stared at the inferno, sirens drawing nearer. "I got a pretty good idea." Determination shone in her eyes as she stood up. "Stay here, okay? I'm gonna go to Paul, get some info from him." She looked around. "Thought he was gonna be here."

"Right. Go." Hannah nodded.

Faith took off in a sprint towards the bookstore.

Within 10 minutes of running, Faith burst through the front door of the closed store, seeing the back room light still on. "Paul - dammit, those motherfuckers got to Hannah's place." She reached the back room and stopped.

Paul was on the floor, wheelchair on the other end of the room. He groaned in what could only be pain. The entire back office was a wreck, papers everywhere, some bookshelves crushed, desk slammed against the wall.

Faith rushed to his side. "Shit, Paul." She helped him to a sitting position against the wall, seeing his nose bloody and a bruise on his cheek. Otherwise, he seemed coherent.

"Faith," he mumbled. "They came in here. From the back. Right before I was going to follow you." He put his hand up to his head. "They knew you'd come here after you saw Hannah. They told me about Hannah."

"'They,'" Faith spat, feeling the anger rising in her chest. "You mean those bastards with Relin. They did this to you, didn't they? This and Hannah's, right?"

Paul nodded. "I'm afraid so."

"Where's Brandon?"

"Uh. out. On. assignment."

"Damn," She shook her head.

"Faith, there's something else. They wanted me to show you something." His face grew even more solemn.

She didn't like it. "What is it?"

"They told me to give this to you." He pulled a piece of paper that was stuffed in his jacket pocket. He handed it to her.

Faith opened it up with a bit of fear rising above the fury from what was to be said:

The fire doesn't stop here, Slayer. Home is where the heart is.

"What does it mean?" Paul asked.

Faith's heart skipped into her throat. "No." She crushed the paper in her hand and got to her feet.

"Faith, what could they be talking about?"

"Xander," she muttered and raced out of the bookshop.

* * * *

"He's not here," Patrick told the desperate Faith as he cleaned a glass.

"Whatta mean? I left him here for work not two hours ago! His shift ain't done!"

Patrick quickly picked up in her desperation and became a little anxious himself. He slowly put the cleaned glass under the bar, his eyes not leaving her. "He said he had to leave early for something. The guy works hard so I let him."

"Did he fucking say where he was going?"

"I think he said he went back to your place. Had some sort of surprise. Everything okay?"

But Faith didn't answer. She turned from the bar and bolted out the door.

* * * *

The firemen were all over the place. The heat was so intense some of the firemen had backed away from the bigger firestorm swallowing up what was once her apartment building, her comfort zone, her home.

Faith rushed through three firemen until a fourth one got in her way, holding out his arms. "Hey, you can't go any further than this, ma'am."

"I have to!" she snapped. "I fucking live here!"

"Sorry, but it's too hot. The building's about to collapse, too dangerous."

"Back off, asshole!" She shoved him away, making him hit the side of one of the fire trucks.

"Hey!" He gestured for some of the other firemen and they quickly joined him and grabbed Faith from behind.

Bad mistake.

She flung the fireman on her right arm away, slamming her fist into the face of the one holding her left arm, and shoved the other one again. She continued to approach the building, barely recognizing the front steps.

"Stop!!" another one cried. "You can't go in there!"

Faith didn't listen, even when the heat was beginning to get to her skin, she kept going, wanting to make sure Xander was okay. She HAD to check to see if he had made it out.

But two more firemen went to the extreme and tackled her to the ground.

As she hit the pavement, there was a creaking in the structure. It was giving in. The building couldn't withstand the heat.

"Get off of me!" Faith cried, but quickly shut up as part of the structure came barreling down.

The two firemen reacted quickly and pulled them all away just as it hit the ground where they stood only a few seconds before.

They all stared at the burning section that had just fallen.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" one of them cried in irritation. "You could've been killed!"

Faith shrugged them off her and turned to face them. "Did everyone get out?" she demanded.

"Yes, I think so," he replied. "Well, everyone on the first two floors at least. The fire seemed to have started on the third floor in that corner apartment." He pointed to the window off to the left.

Faith's window.

"No," she said, following his direction. "Did he get out?"


Faith turned around, grabbing him by the collar of his thick jacket, bringing up to his tippy-toes. "Xander! The guy who was in there at the time! Did he get out!?"

The guy in her grasp was too taken by her hold. "I-I don't know!" He pointed to a man off to the side with a clipboard. "He took all names of the tenants!"

Faith let go and went over to the clipboard, snatching it out of his hand, ignoring his attempts to get it back. She quickly scanned the list. again. and again. and again.


No Xander.

No Harris.

"You Faith?" the guy asked.

Faith looked up.

The guy glanced at her arm, seeing the tattoo. He shrugged. "Got handed this, told me to give it to you."

Faith took the envelope slowly, staring at it. Without taking her eyes off of it, she dropped the clipboard and her arm shot out and grabbed the guy by the throat.

The guy automatically tried to pry her hand from it, barely able to breathe. "Hey!"

Faith dragged him down a block without anyone noticing, holding him up if he stumbled, and pulled him into an alley. She pushed him into the wall and let go, her eyes never leaving the envelope.

The guy tried to step away from the wall only to be shoved back into it.

"Stay there," she ordered, still not looking up.

"Hey, I was just -"

Faith glared at him with fury barely contained now. "I said, FUCKING STAY THERE!"

He quieted down, too scared to move again.

She opened up the envelope, matching the one Paul had handed to her that led her to this nightmare. The first item in it was a Polaroid.

Of Xander.

In a chair.

Tied up from head to toe, mouth gagged.


In the background were six people in black outfits, pouring gasoline around him and the room.

One even was shooting a bird into the camera.

Heart pounding in her chest, she pulled out the piece of paper that was behind the picture.

It was a scrap piece of paper with the same kind of writing on it as the one Paul had - only it was all in capital letters indicating it was done - bull's-eye: