Faith and Hope

Author: Lucinda

story #3 in Bonds of Faith, companion series to Bonds of Soul & Demon

Main Character: Faith

rating: pg 13

Disclaimer: I hold no legal rights to Faith or any other characters from the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Distribution: Anyone with permission for BS&D that wants this can have it, anyone with permission for BoF1 may have this.

note: somewhat AU season 3.

Faith leaned back in the chair of her hotel room and sighed. She'd learned that the Hellmouth was right underneath the high school library, which had to be a coincidence. After all, nobody would be dumb enough to put a school over the Hellmouth on purpose, and wasn't high school bad enough without any supernatural evil giving it a boost? But the stories that the Scoobies kept telling were useful in that they gave her an idea just how much variety there was in the evil things that came crawling, leaping, and running towards the Hellmouth. They gave her an idea what she might be facing, and what sort of non demonic things she would have to deal with.

The bright side was that she wouldn't have to worry about the cops hassling her like they ones in Boston, or Williamsburg, or Atlanta, or... well, in a lot of places. The people here would probably forget all about it even if she killed something right in front of them. That seemed almost impossible, and it would make things so much easier. But without a proper Watcher to help figure out what things were, she could be in trouble. She needed information, supplies, and maybe the occasional backup, none of which looked likely from Xander, Cordelia and Oz.

Of course, a bargain with a vampire to not cause problems and offer assistance against the really big things probably wasn't a good solution. It seemed too easy, too simple, but she'd already made the suggestion, struck the devil's bargain. Now she just had to hope that they held to it. Hoped that the person the Scoobies claimed had betrayed them all had something resembling a sense of honor...

Faith winced, wishing that she didn't have the complications of this situation. Kakistos was after her intending some sort of horrible and painful death. Add that to the already large assortment of demons and vampires that she would run into and it was clear that she'd already been in trouble before the bargain with Red. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and all that stuff... Maybe she'd be able to convince herself of it. But in the meanwhile, she still had to patrol, both because of her duty and because it would help work out some of her nervousness.

As Faith walked, she considered Sunnydale, and the various buildings, parks and cemeteries. She was coming to especially despise the Sunnydale cemeteries, all of them were full of big mausoleums, and looming tombstones that could be used to hide behind or inside, and the vamps always knew them better than she did. A couple of them even had access to the sewer tunnels, which just seemed all sorts of wrong. Almost like they'd been designed for the vamps to use. But surely that was nothing more than paranoia speaking? Who would design a place with the monsters in mind? Who would have the resources and power, let alone the motivation?

"Slayer." The voice was flat, as if every trace of emotion was being suppressed, and he had a slight hiss to the s sound..

Looking up, Faith learned that the speaker was a human looking guy, maybe twenty-ish, that looked like a college kid, but felt like a vampire. He wasn't attacking her, and she didn't feel any more vamps lurking in the bushes near him. But Faith was still wary and suspicious. With a tiny gesture towards him, she made a half nod. "Vampire."

"You might want to check the docks. There was a lot of fuss being made about some things that were supposed to be arriving." With those words, he made a small nod that still allowed his eyes to be on her, and slowly backed away a bit before vanishing into the night.

Maybe this deal with Red might work out after all. And maybe she was just sauntering down the fast route to death. Faith shook her head, considering the whole situation. She was a Slayer, she wasn't likely to have a particularly long life anyhow, and if there was something arriving at the docks, it would be bigger than the chance of picking of the careless cemetery roaming vampires.

end part 1.

Naturally, the docks had turned out to hold vampires and an assortment of demons, many of which had scurried away. She was certain that some of the scurrying things had been demonic rats. There had been a shipment, and a trio of demons waiting for it to be unloaded. All of them were nasty types. She attacked, hoping to dispatch them as quickly as possible. The first one went down fast, a solid blow to the back getting it out of the way before they had time to react. The other two took longer, and she ended up with a lot of bruises, and some scrapes before they finally went down. Breathing hard, Faith decided to check out this eagerly awaited shipment.

The shipment turned out to be an assortment of drugs and poisons. Some of them would kill humans, while others would just leave them entirely helpless to resist an attack. Yeah, definitely a shipment that should be stopped. She grunted slightly as she picked up the end of the chest, dragging it along with her as she retreated once more to the little motel where she was staying. Why did the bad guys have to get creative, to adapt to the times? Using drugs and poisons... And how in the hell was she supposed to dispose of these things anyhow?

But she was there to stop the monsters. That was her job, after all. Kills the vampires before they kill people, stops the demons, prevents the evil prophecy from happening... And right now, she'd just about maim for a decent bed and a truly hot shower. For this, she'd come to Sunnydale? For this, she was staying in a miserable little hotel? Closing her eyes to prevent tears, Faith reminded herself that she didn't have any other options. She had no family, her Watcher was dead, and she had no income... maybe she should start checking for wallets on the vamps before she dusted them? She would just have to hope for something better, for someone to help her find an acceptable solution. Maybe the local Watcher could help, if and when he got back from whatever he was doing.

The next few days blurred together, with only minor details being worth noticing. She was staggering back to the cheap little hotel along a street of cheap hotels and bad restaurants, when she slowed and halted, feeling the unmistakable presence of vampires. Carefully, she looked around, trying to find the vampire, to wake the hell back up before she got killed. The sensation was coming from two places, from a room at the far end of her hotel, and from the figure leaning against her door. It wasn't someone that she recognized, in fact the vampire couldn't have been more than fourteen or fifteen when she died, her dark hair cut short and her whole look suggesting teen runaway, possibly desperate. If it was a hunting strategy, it might pick up a lot of sleeze-balls, but it still made Faith shudder at the images.

"So... why are you at my door?" Faith decided to try a simple question first. Part of it was because the vampire had clearly been waiting for her, which meant a purpose. Part of it was to give herself more of a chance to wake up.

With a slight shrug, the girl stood up, rolling her shoulders as if they were stiff. "I got sent with a message for you. The guy you've been waiting on, the Watcher. He's back in town."

"You're one of Red's, aren't you?" Faith connected things, feeling a bit relieved that this vamp probably wasn't a danger for now.

"Yes." The vampire nodded, her voice soft, not quite making eye contact with Faith. It was the perfect act of a nervous teenager, although she felt like she had several decades on her at least. "If you have trouble finding him with other sources, the Lady suggests the High School library."

Faith nodded, watching as the vampire started to walk away. Then, she paused, turning back to Faith with a cheeky smile. "The noisy folks over in room nineteen are also hers, but they were all over each other, so I told them to just get a room and get on with it. If they keep you up too late, just go pound on the door and tell them to keep the racket down."

She couldn't keep from laughing as she let herself into the hotel room. Horny vamps at the end of the hotel... there was just something wrong with that. But she didn't feel up to dealing with them right now, she just wanted some sleep. Maybe everything would be more manageable in the morning.

end part 2.

The next day rolled around, and after concluding that she just couldn't sleep through the sunlight, the ancient and noisy vacuum of the motel maid, and the couple next door screaming at each other in Spanish, Faith had grudgingly left the bed. A shower that didn't stay hot for nearly long enough and some fairly clean clothing later, and she felt ready to face the day. Almost anywhere besides this miserable little motel room. Pulling a jacket on to hide the stake and knife, she left the room. There would be something to do somewhere, right?

She spent a couple hours hanging out at a little video arcade before making her way towards the Bronze, feeling rather bored by the whole mess. There was nothing to do during the day, not without someone to talk to, help her find the useful things. There was probably a library somewhere, and if she could find it, then she could go hang out there flipping through national Geographic magazines and reading a far greater assortment of romance novels than she'd ever be able to hide in her place… if she'd actually had a place. They were complete fairy tales, but that was their appeal – near total separation from the real world and responsibilities. And they had nothing to do with demons, saving the world, or the risk of agonizingly painful injuries.

"Faith." The soft voice belonged to Oz, one of the Scoobies. For some reason that she couldn't put her finger on, he set off her Slayer senses.

"Oz… Your band performing tonight?" Faith had wondered about the quiet guy, about how he'd gotten involved in the whole mess, in what he thought about the vampires, about Willow's departure and the vanishing Buffy. But he rarely spoke, and he tried hard to avoid opening up about anything personal.

"Yeah." He nodded, glancing at the stage for a moment. "Giles came back. I thought you might want to see him, ask some questions."

"Cool. So, where is he?" She stood up, a brief shifting of her jacket reassuring her that her weapons were still there.

"School library." He rolled one shoulder, as if trying to unknot a muscle. "I can drop you off with my van."

"Thanks, that sounds better than hanging around here till dark." She followed him to his striped van, sighing at the color of it. "So, where's the happy couple?"

"Supposed to be catching Giles up on what he's missed." Oz frowned as the van's motor turned over once, sputtered, turned over again and caught. "You might want to make sure he's got the facts on you."

Faith tried to be patient, and the trip to the High School went fairly quickly. They started down a hallway, and Faith listened to their footsteps echo. Finally, Oz led her to the library, and pushed open the door, revealing rows and rows of books, and a table where a sandy haired man sat with a teacup. Xander was explaining something, she caught 'patrol… cemeteries… improving.' Cordelia was filing her nails as she listened, wearing some pale blue sundress that made her look like she belonged in a catalog.

"Faith, Giles. Giles, this is Faith." Oz gestured from Faith to the sandy haired man, offered a small nod, and turned around to leave the library. "Later."

"Thanks for the ride." Faith called, not quite wanting to alienate him until she knew why he registered to her Slayer senses. Then, she sauntered closer, taking a good look at the man at the table. He couldn't have been much over forty, and he seemed to be in pretty good shape under that mostly buttoned shirt. Wire frame glasses, nice hands… "If I'd known that Watchers came this young and sexy, I'd have shown up here earlier."

"Ack! This is… Giles!" Xander squawked, making a face at her words.

Cordelia stood up, shaking her head. "What ever. I've been here long enough, I'm sure you can handle things from here. Xander, did you want to go with me to the beach?"

"Beach, err. Yeah, lets go." Xander edged away from the table before practically bolting away with Cordelia.

Giles blushed a bit, and somewhat awkwardly polished his spotless glasses on a soft handkerchief from a pocket. "Ah... right. You have been the Slayer since the end of May?" Giles was looking at her, a faint tension between his eyes, and his fingers twitched towards an empty teacup.

"Yeah, since the end of May. I wasn't exactly unprepared though. I'd had a Watcher since I was about five, and my first Watcher managed to arrange for me to have some stuff, gymnastics lessons, special track for the elementary classes that I was in... an early grounding in the physical side of things. After he died, I got a new Watcher... He was big on the more academic side." Faith had pulled herself up to perch on the edge of the table, her feet swinging slowly as she looked around, not quite willing to look this new Watcher in the eyes yet. "Told my mom that I needed a tutor for my school work, which I did... He gave me the whole speech about there are ancient evils, and destiny, and how I had the potential to become something called a Slayer, the big shining defender of the helpless and all that. Vampires were evil, demons were real... and I had to learn how to fight against them, in case I was called. He didn't tell me about how Slayers were called, not for a long time."

"I'm pretty good on the physical end of things, although I'm not to good with authority figures. I can read French, German, and a bit of Latin. All I can do with the various old dead languages is maybe recognize them and look for pictures. I've been patrolling here since I got into town..." Finally, she looked over at his face, noticing that he was listening, both to what she said and what she didn't say.

"Have you found anything unusual for a town this size?" There was curiosity behind the innocent seeming question.

"There's the whole strong evil vibe that covers the whole town, I've seen more cemeteries than apartment complexes, more churches than fast food places, and…" Faith paused, knowing that those weren't entirely what he'd meant. "There's a quiet part of town. As far as the special night life goes, I mean. It looks like prime territory, and I can feel them out there, feel them watching me if I go through, but I never see any action there. No fresh kills, nobody getting attacked in the allies, no marauding demons."

"Willow's clan." The words were barely a whisper, and he closed his eyes. "She has been keeping them in line then."

"So… You know about Red and her pack of vampires?" Faith wasn't quite certain how to react to that. Granted, Red had seemed pretty self controlled, for someone who felt like a vamp, but it was entirely against tradition, the rules, and maybe against Slayer instinct. "I sort of… made a deal with her."

"A deal?" He looked at her, eyes narrowing slightly. "What sort of deal?"

"I promised to leave them alone as long as they behaved and didn't jump me. Maybe exchange information on the big scaries." Faith offered, feeling oddly guilty.

"Why did you feel the need to do this?" He didn't sound angry, but he was definitely worried about something.

"Kakistos. He… he killed my Watcher, and he's after me. I know that I can't take him down alone." Faith pushed her shoulders back, determined not to let him make her feel guilty for trying the only option that she'd seen for a way to survive.

"Kakistos? With the cloven hooves? Oh dear lord…" Giles began to polish the lenses of his glasses. "Oh dear… Yes, that does explain why you felt the need for some sort of possible back up."

End part 3.

Giles had started researching immediately, trying to learn what he could about Kakistos. He'd muttered something about her description being 'vivid but unhelpful'. So far, they'd managed to piece together a long and gruesome account of his travels and victims, but still nothing on why he kept killing Slayers every century or so. Nothing to tell them why he was after Faith.

She'd kept patrolling at night, a good portion of it being that spending hours researching the vicious vampire that wanted to kill her gave her the most horrible stir crazy tension, and she just had to go move, fight, and slay things to get it out of her system. The old industrial section was usually a pretty good area for patrol, she could almost always count on catching some sort of nasty thing that needed killed. She edged past the old cannery, noticing a shape among the trash by an old building that had probably been cheap housing for the factory workers. It almost looked like a shoe sticking up from the trash…

Something was near the maybe body, a tall, thin shape with a large head, sort of like an upside down egg shape with big dark eyes and a little mouth full of needle sharp teeth. It looked sort of hunched over, with long skinny arms and wicked looking claws, but it still filled the entire doorway. Something dark had been smeared over and around the things mouth, and over the wicked claws, something thick that oozed down and fell to the cracked concrete floor with a splat.

"Damn, that looks like definite trouble." Faith whispered, pulling her knife and stake as she moved closer, trying to get a better look at the demon.

There was an odd not quite texture to the thing, as if there was a very thin layer of something eggshell colored pulled taut over muscle. It looked up, and made this clicking noise, a sound that made it clear that there were more teeth inside the jaws, and it raised the thin arms, looking almost like something from an oriental illustration. Clicking at her, it swayed closer, moonlight reflecting yellow from those dark eyes.

Faith's nose wrinkled at the smell, ghoul blood mixing with this stale, musty odor that set of alarms in her mind. It hissed, and lunged towards her, those wicked claws looking easily sharp enough to slash to the bone. Faith twisted out of the way, slashing her knife at the arm. Again it lunged, and she felt it's arm connect with her face, and she slashed out with the knife, hoping to sever a tendon o something as she connected hard with the wall. Her eye was throbbing and her lip stung, something warm tickling at her chin. The thing kept chittering as it retreated, disappearing back into the building, the shoe of the ghoul's body disappearing as the body was dragged inside.

Faith didn't go after it. She didn't know what it was, but one of them was a definite challenge. And how did she know there weren't more in the building? No, this was definitely a situation for more information. And she knew just how to get it. Carefully, she made her way towards the location of the Sunnydale library, knowing that not only was that well inside Red's territory, there were benches to sit on. Sitting down sounded pretty good right now.

She ended up sitting in the little park near the center of town, her eye still throbbing. She'd sorted out as much as she could of what the thing had looked like, how it had moved. After all, it was hard to identify a demon without more than tall, skinny, and hostile. There were plenty of people in the area, and she was almost certain that one of Red's vampires would be in the area soon. When they felt here, surely they'd wonder what was up, right?

Her eyes were closed, and she was listening, trying to keep aware of her surroundings as much as possible. She could feel a vampire approaching, a couple centuries, in control, powerful. Opening her eyes, she had no trouble picking out the vampire. He was a bit under six foot, with bleached blond hair, sharp cheekbones, and a long leather coat. He sauntered closer, looking at her for a long while before offering in a calm voice with a British accent "Slayer."

Resisting the urge to smile and pull at her sore lip, Faith nodded. "Vampire. You're one of Red's? I'm guessing that you're this Spike person that I've heard about."

"Yeah, I'm Spike." He nodded slightly, and paused a few seconds, his eyes flickering over her and coming to rest briefly on her eyes, and then on her lip. "You look... something got your eye. You might want to put some ice on it. Any ideas what got you?"

She gave a half smile, half smirk at him. "You think? Yeah... well, it wasn't something I recognized, and it got away. I was thinking... when Red and I talked, she mentioned something about consulting for big demons. Now, I'm not asking for a trip to the palace, but if I can maybe get a bit of help identifying this thing... It was big, strong, and fast. I'll have a better chance if I know where and how to hit it, y'know?"

"Makes sense. I'll give mum a heads up, let her know what's going on. I'm sure you understand if I say you wouldn't be the top choice of houseguest." He had this little smirk as he spoke, giving her the impression that he was teasing, but wasn't really meaning anything personal by it.

Curious, Faith looked at him. Was she about to see one of the strange mental link things that so many of the Watcher's Chronicles hinted at? "Sounds good, blondie. How you going to get a hold of her, some sort of vampire mind thing?"

"Nah…" Spike grinned, as he pulled out a cell phone from his coat pocket "Not if I want to be able to give specific details. I got a cell. Maybe I should ask Mum to get you one for Christmas, if you're a good Slayer."

Faith just started to giggle, amused by the idea of the scary master vampire using a cell phone. It was just so contrary to al the stereotypes. He rolled his eyes at her giggles, and eventually handed the phone to her. Squishing down her amusement and slight unease, Faith accepted the phone. "Hello?"

:Spike said there was a demon you wanted to ask about. Can you describe it for us?: Willow's voice was easily identified, even through the hint of static.

"Yeah. It was tall, but sort of skinny." Faith paused, licking her lips as she tried to clarify all the details, knowing that Willow would need more specifics. "I can't give an exact height, but it had to be close to nine or ten feet tall, and it was kind of hunched over. It had really long arms and fingers, and the fingers ended in these long claws. It was all bony looking, and sort bone colored as well. Little bitty mouth, but it looked like sharp teeth inside, big dark eyes. No hair, not scaly, but not quite smooth... kind of lines along where the muscle would go, like it's skin was really thin. It had a funny smell too, sort of like dust and something else, made me think of old graves, like opening a really old tomb."

:Ick. Anything particular about the way it moved? Was it hunched in the open or in somewhere that would have a low roof for it? Did it move like a human would? Did it make any noises?: The questions were spoken with dismay that perfectly matched the 'ick', but didn't sound at all like the phrasing of a feared vampire leader.

"Ick doesn't sound like something from a vampire clan leader. It didn't talk, but it made a few strange clicking noises, I think from it's teeth. I first found it in a condemned apartment over near the Cannery, it stood a bit straighter outside, but not all the way. It kind of did this swaying thing, and the eyes sort of reflected light like a cat's do."

:Good description, some very useful detail here. It doesn't sound familiar off the top of my head, but we'll look into it. Promise we'll get back to you if we find it, especially if we can find details like venom or how to kill it.: She sounded as if she was already mentally sorting out where to look.

"Thanks, Red. Your concern is... actually a lot more than I'm used to getting. Really, thanks. Hmm..." Faith smiled a little at the fact that Willow was actually willing to help. Granted, she'd said that she would, but there could be huge gaps between what people say and what they do. Then, her mind flashed back to her hotel room, and the fact that's he only had her knife, some stakes, and a small axe. "What happens if I need a particular type of weapon? I haven't got a full arsenal anymore."

:Not a problem. Giles had his arsenal, most of them are locked up in the school library. I'll make you a copy of the key, that way if you need a weapon, you know where to find them and can get inside. Just remember to lock up behind you, and the principal is an obnoxious troll of a guy, presumably human though. You'll want to avoid him.: Willow's voice held a bit of amusement.

Faith let out a sigh of relief, her eyes drooping closed for a moment. "Sounds five by five to me, Red. Let me know when you got the key, I can meet you somewhere to get it."

The answer was swift. :Meet me at the Expresso Pump, tomorrow at about six in the evening. I can give you the key then.:

"Great. I'll give the phone back to Fang junior now. You've been a gem, Red." Faith was smiling as she handed the phone back to Spike.

Spike grinned, amusement flickering in his eyes as the phone vanished into his coat. "Mum's not to big on form for form's sake. She wants there to be a reason, hopefully a good one, or else she's likely to change things around. Keeps us on our toes. We'll keep an eye out for your tall bone demon."

Her eye was still throbbing, and everything was starting to ache. Her miserable little hotel room seemed pretty appealing right now. "Never thought I'd be saying this to a vamp, but thanks. Maybe I'll see you around."

"You probably will. Something else - Red's got some people looking for information of that Kakisti bloke. So far, we've got that he's Greek, over a thousand years old, maybe closer to two thousand. Very evil, suspected of making bargains with big evils from another realm, all that blather. There was something about hooves as well. If we find out anything, we'll get word to you." Spike's voice had gone serious again.

"Sounds good, anything would be a plus. He does have hooves, and his hands are sort of... weird, like his fingers are growing together, almost like hooves as well. And he's got small horns on his head. Really gross and unnatural looking. She's something... and I don't think I've ever met anyone like her before." Faith wasn't quite certain what to think about the warm feeling that filled her. Willow was looking for information on her enemy? Granted, it was probably because he would be a danger for her clan as well, but… She didn't have to do this alone. And there was a Watcher as well, and he looked a lot better than Joseph ever had.

End part 4.

Returning to her room at the motel, Faith shook her head, trying to make everything fall into some sort of sense. Into a pattern that she would understand. She'd run across the whole country to find the other Slayer and get help. Now that she was in Sunnydale, Buffy was nowhere to be found, Buffy's friends kept comparing her to the absent Buffy, Buffy's Watcher was a fine specimen of a man, and she was actually getting help from vampires. This was all sorts of wrong.

She'd been listening to the stories of life on the Hellmouth, and there were clear messages in them. Cordelia thought that Faith's fashion sense was lacking, a fault that was apparently not present in Buffy. Cordelia was always looking at her clothing and hair with this little sniff, muttering about Faith wearing her clothing too dark, too tight, too wild. Xander kept talking about the way Buffy fought, the way she smiled – it was so obvious that he had a crush on her. As for Oz, not only did she still have no idea why he set her senses on alert, he didn't talk much. The only thing she'd managed to learn was that he was in a band, and had commented that her training pattern was 'different'. Was that good or yet another slighting comparison to Buffy?

She'd gathered a bit more about Willow's split with them. Apparently, Buffy had been involved with this vampire Angel, who supposedly had a soul. They got together, did the deed, and he woke up evil. Angelus started doing the typical vampire thing, and somehow or other, Willow ended up in a park talking to Spike, who was a Childe of Angelus. Xander had confronted her about the affair – which Faith didn't think was even happening – and Willow had gotten angry and stopped talking to them.

Spike had called Willow 'mum'. That wasn't what you called your lover, not unless you had some serious Oedipal issues. If Willow wasn't having sex with Spike, why had they been talking? If he was calling her mum… Suspicion crawled up her spine, and Faith wondered just when Spike had started calling Willow 'mum', and how she'd gained control over a pack of vampires. That sort of thing wasn't easy, especially not for anybody with a pulse, no matter who they were sleeping with.

The day was unremarkable, and Faith counted the hours until it was time to meet Red at the Espresso Pump. It might not be wise, but the promise of access to weapons was too tempting to ignore. And it wasn't access to the vampire's weapons, but to the ones in the library, the ones held in the library.

Slipping inside the building, Faith scanned the room, looking for the red hair, trying to feel a hunter. She was here, and it was public enough that there probably wouldn't be any problems, but it never hurt to be a bit careful. A part of her wondered if maybe it was a bit lat to try to be careful now, but she ignored that whisper. She made her way to the counter, picking up a mug of hot chocolate as she continued to look for Willow.

That was when she felt it, a sort of pulse, like a wave washing through he room. Nobody else seemed to notice it, but Faith couldn't miss it – like blood and sunlight and damp earth all rolled together. Blinking, she looked for the source, and there was Willow, standing at a little table in the corner. Walking closer, Faith grinned. "Nice little trick there, Red. Does it help keep everyone in line?"

"Yeah, it's pretty handy." Willow paused, her eyes flickering over the people around them as she slid a ring of keys with a little key charm of an eagle towards Faith. "You forgot these the other day, so I brought your keys back to you. I also checked the sourcebook for that computer game you mentioned last night. It's from the second level, and you should use a blunt object on it. It's got bonuses to strength, and it's fast, but it hasn't got any special resistances. Get a blunt weapon from your inventory, and beat it to death. Watch out for the claws though, they tend to have a strong chance of causing infection."

Faith blinked a moment, her mind drawing a blank at Willow's words. Computer game? Levels? Then comprehension dawned – it wasn't as if they could just talk about slaying demons like a normal, everyday event, even if it was such a thing for her. "Second... no special resistances? That's good, and just a blunt weapon... yeah. I can get one of those." She sipped at her hot chocolate, frowning slightly and blowing over her cup before sipping again. "Cool. I was pretty sure that I had that sourcebook, but I think it got lost in the move."

"Rough day? You look..." Willow paused, her eyes focused on Faith as she held her cup. "A bit frustrated."

"Mmmm. I got to spend a few hours trying to look up a few things with my new... study group. They're getting on my nerves. They keep comparing me to Buffy. I don't dress like she did... I don't talk like she did. I don't... study... like she did. They keep making me feel like I don't measure up to Buffy. Like I'm a cheap imitation." The frustration seethed inside of her, and Faith just had to let it out a bit. Besides, it wasn't as if Willow would go running off to tell the scoobies that Faith was annoyed.

"Ouch. I can see why that would put you in a foul mood. Well, personally, I've noticed a lot of differences, but I don't have a problem with any of them." Willow was grinning now, and paused to sip at her mug of coffee. "You're not running naked, so your clothing is your choice. Doesn't look like stuff that will stain easy for your... workouts either, so that's more logic than she ever used. Haven't watched you dance, or work on homework, so no idea there. Different style for your exercise though. You seem to take things more seriously. We like you better that we liked her."

"Really? Didn't think your group would like me much... at all." Faith looked at Willow, trying to figure out how sincere the redhead actually was. "More like find me entirely annoying."

Willow was smiling now, here eyes sparkling with amusement. "Honestly? They aren't sure they like you. But we can tell that you're good at what you do. Effective, passionate about your time. Better yet, you can stick by your promises, which is a big plus with the conservative crowd. They... we respect you."

She looked at the table, a bit confused at the warmth that was spreading over her cheeks, through her body at those words. They respected her? "I suppose there is a difference. I can deal with respected. Probably better than liked anyhow. Your people seem five by five."

"Five by five? What exactly does that mean?" Willow blinked, placing the cup gently on the table as she looked at Faith. "Anyhow, they don't know enough to know if they like you. Hmmm... a couple of the guys are a bit restless. If you want a group to go with to get that second level demon we mentioned, you can meet a few of us at Eternal Hope, around ten. It is a bring your own snack event though."

"Now Red, I can't be telling you all of my secrets, can I? Glad you got the keys back to me, and a group sounds... actually it sounds good. Back-up can come in pretty handy sometimes." Faith slipped out of the chair, feeling much better about Sunnydale. She had some allies, even if they were unconventional.

End part 5.

Faith had spent hours wondering if Willow and her vamps would show up. She'd said they'd be there, and she'd kept every promise that she'd made so far, but… Faith was more in the habit of doubt than trust. Shaking her head, she decided to get an early start on the night. Grabbing a couple knives and some stakes, Faith was out the door. She caught some huge thing with long arms and a tiny head, like some sort of troll or ogre out of a fairy tale. To her relief, it had been slow and clumsy. It even had a nifty hammer that she liberated, slinging it over her shoulder as she made her way towards the cemetery. A big, solid hammer with some heft to it, and the wooden handle was engraved with some sort of runes, and the wooden haft extended into a sharp wooden point about seven inches from the top of the hammer, leaving it not only unique looking, but useful against a variety of foes.

Finding a nice, ornate headstone to lean against, she let the hammer rest on the ground, and waited. They'd have no trouble finding her if they showed up, and it would be silly to go hunting all over for them. It wasn't that long until she could feel a group of vampires approaching from the right.

One of the lead figures was Willow, although Faith didn't recognize any of the vampires that were with her. All of them looked ready for a fight, with weapons and predatory smiles. Willow smiled and gave a little wave towards her.

"Hey there. So, bone demons... blunt objects. Hammer time, then time to go party?" She realized that she was grinning, and shook her head.

"Yeah. Of course, they had a much longer name in the books... Marraeocholith or something like that. Simple version, bone demons, blunt objects to shatter their bones, umm... go for the joints, ribs, or the head if you can. According to the book, those are the optimal targets." Willow looked almost cheerful as she offered the advice.

She couldn't help but smile at the help. And considering the way things were going so far… She had flashes of Looney Toones with that Elmer Fudd and Buggs Bunny sort of Opera thing. "Fair enough. Well... a hunting we will go... but not for wabbits."

It was less than fifteen minutes from the cemetery to the place where Faith had encountered the demon. The vampires began to fidget, a few even growling as they approached the buildings. A bit closer, and Faith noticed a strange, musty smell, most likely from that demon. There was also a low clicking noise, and a sort of guttural croaking.

The clicking made her blood chill, and she gripped the hammer, her palms slightly sweaty. "That's the sound the one I ran into made. Be ready, it was fast."

One of Willow's vampires hissed out a question "Are you sure all that noise is coming from just one?"

Her words still hung unanswered in the air when three demons burst forth, leaping at the intruders from behind corners and rusting machinery. High pitched keening noises that were accented by a sharp sounding clicking set their nerves on edge, possibly intended to paralyze a person with fear. Their skin was pulled taut over inhumanly lean bodies, every shift of the muscles easily visible, the joints knobby with bone mass.

Things soon became a frantic flurry of movement. Arms swung weapons, heads shifted, trying frantically to track all three demons, whose long arms gave them superior range. Bodies and legs moved rapidly, attempting to dodge the demons. One demon lunged at Faith, and as the Slayer ducked, Willow kicked sideways, connecting firmly to the demon's knee, sending it sideways with a wet sounding popping noise. The demon screamed, a spine chilling sound, and attempted to turn towards Willow. It shifted it's weight, and toppled, the injured leg giving out. They were on it like a swarm, everyone clubbing, beating, crushing the demon into a flattened smear, the pale skin splitting to reveal crimson blood.

The feeling of triumph was short-lived, as a slash of claws struck one of Willow's vampires in the back, dropping her to the ground in a spray of blood and scream of pain. They had almost forgotten the other two demons. Unfortunately, the demons hadn't forgotten them, and seemed to be very angry about the death of their comrade. Their attacks showed a new fury, and soon Faith, Willow, and the vampires had formed a defensive group, surrounding the injured vampire on the ground. The demons seemed to be moving faster now, their movements almost jerky with what could only be fury. Occasional blows still connected to the demons, but things had shifted to a temporary stalemate.

The balance abruptly shifted when one of the creatures apparently stumbled. Willow moved slightly forward, her staff swinging forward, connecting with the back of the demon's skull, just above the neck. It gave a little clack and fell to the ground, limbs twitching spastically. Faith lunged forward, swinging the hammer at the head, which was now nicely in range. At the same time, the other demon gave a furious shriek, and leapt over the group, claws slashing downwards, catching Willow over the shoulder-blade, sending her tumbling to the ground.

The next thing that Faith was clear on, there was this deep roar, and a tall vampire with dark hair was attacking the demons. He was just battering them with his bare hands, and it was working pretty effectively. Spike was there as well, and he was helping the other vampires make certain that he fallen demons were quite thoroughly dead. By the time she finally felt certain that it couldn't possibly regenerate, it was little more than a bloody smear on the concrete.

Spike knelt by the fallen vampire, inspecting her injury, attempting to determine just how bad it really was. Faith had some bruises, and a few shallow slashes along her fore arms, the sleeves of the jacket slashed repeatedly. The dark haired vampire had knelt beside Willow, his golden eyes focused so intently on her that he hadn't even glanced at Faith. One hand reached out, brushing over her hair before moving towards her back. He peered at the slashes. "Willow?"

When Willow didn't respond, he made a small noise, halfway between a grunt and a growl before carefully scooping her into his arms. He brushed a lock of her hair back from her eyes, tucking it behind her ear as she had done so many times. He kicked at one outstretched hand of one of the demons, and carried Willow away, her still form held close to his body.

Her stomach tense and bruised, Faith had watched with wide eyes, and her soft words hung loud in the air. "What was that about?"

"That's Angelus." Spike's words were just a bit more smug than normal. "He's a bit worried about his mate, y' see."

"Angelus? His mate…" Faith blinked, feeling as if her head was spinning with this new information. No, that was from the fight. "Willow and Angelus? That would explain why you called her 'mum'. And damn… She's got herself a fine piece of man."

"She's his mate. When the Slayer - the other one, that is – sent him to Hell, she led us. She brought him back." One of the vampires spoke, rattling a length of chain in an effort to get the blood and bits of bone to fall away.

"She…" Faith blinked, looking at the direction that he'd carried her. "No wonder you all listen the way you do."

"Family's great." Spike had a smile as he looked over the vampires. "I'm sure we'll bump into each other again, Slayer."

"Yeah… later." Faith shook her head, slowly heading back to her motel room. Willow and Angelus… He'd looked so worried about her, so tender. It made her jealous, not that Willow had her own vampire, but that she had someone to fuss over her, to help her when she was injured. And Faith didn't have anyone.

An image of Giles flickered at the edges of her mind, and she smiled. She might not have anyone yet, but give her some time. She had a few ideas for the Watcher… Maybe some very close and personal training? Faith would definitely have to work on that.

End part 6.

End Bonds of Faith 3: Faith and Hope.