The Slayer

By Norwalker

Part 1 of a multipart story.

Summary: What if Faith came first? Was a slayer before Buffy?( if Buffy even became a slayer?). Just my take on what might have happened. AU, of course.

Pairings: Not sure yet

Rating: M( R )

Disclaimer: Characters depicted in this story, except for original characters created by the author, are the sole property of Mutant Enemy, Fox and Joss Whedon.

A/N: New series. Hoping my take will amuse and please, but if not, rotten tomatoes will be available in the lobby. The big thing is I'm hoping to make this story about Faith, not Faith being Buffy. Whether I succeed or not, I do hope I at least hold your interest. Thing is, updates on this story will be slow coming, so that's a warning in advance. Hope you'll tune in, anyway. Oh, and like I said, not sure how the pairings are going to shake out yet, so for now, the only sure thing is Faith...

Oh, and by the way? Welcome to the Hellmouth.

-1-

Friday night after the football game.

Two young men are walking down the main street of the small town. By the design of the jackets, the colors, and the footballs stitched on the front, it's obvious they are members of the Sunnydale Razorbacks football team. They are buoyant and high spirited.

" Did you see what we did to them tonight?" The first boy, obviously excited, asks his teammate. " God, they couldn't hold the line against us! We broke through them like a wet paper bag. Man, they were pathetic."

" Oh yeah. And that pass Johnson threw? To Hicks in the end zone? Sweet!"

" Awesome! The crowd went wild on that one. And the cheerleaders… wow."

" They were on! Man they were definitely wow worthy tonight, " The second boy, getting a slightly dreamy look on his face. " Man, love to get me some of that pom-pom action!"

His companion chuckles knowingly. " Whoa, did you see the way Cordelia Chase was shaking it tonight? Mmmm, mmm!"

" I'm telling ya, if that's the best they can throw at us this season, we RULE!"

" Yeah!"

" YEAH!"

The face each other, and give each other the high five.

"OOORAH!" The shout in unison.

" HELP! HELP!"

They hear a voice crying out behind them. They turn and see a young girl, blond, running towards them.

" HELP! PLEASE! You gotta help me!" She catches them, looking scared and breathless. " You… gotta come… my friends… killing them… oh god…it's horrible!" She bends over, trying to catch her breath. " PLEASE… you gotta come…" She looks up at them, obviously frightened.

" Where are they?" The first boy asks, looking around. " I don't seen anything…"

" Over there… behind the building" She waves vaguely in a direction. " Please help me!"

" Let's go!" He says, turning to his friend.

The girl, encouraged, starts to run back the way she came. " Hurry, PLEASE!"

" I don't know, " The second boy is doubtful, " Maybe we should get the police!"

" No time, " Says the first. He starts to follow the girl. " C'mon. It's probably just some punks. No big!"

" Ok…" The second boy, still unsure, doesn't want to appear to be afraid. " Let's do it!"

They take off. By this time the girl has a good lead on them. They see her turn the corner of the building she indicated, and follow her around it.

It's dark, almost too dark to see. They can barely make out some vague shapes up ahead. But they don't hear any noise, or see anything happening.

" What's going on? Where's the fight?" The first boy asks.

" Yeah… no one's getting killed around here!" The second boy says. He stops, looking around.

" Oh I don't know about that." The blond girl steps out of the shadows behind them. " Boys, meet my friends."

" Hey, what's going on here?" The first boy sees some of the shadows moving towards him. All of a sudden, he's not liking this so much.

" Yeah, " the second boy says nervously, " where are the guys in trouble?"

" That'd be you, " The girl, appearing in the light, smiles. Her face has morphed into its vampire mode. " Didn't I tell you that?"

" Ooops" She shrugs, as she and her friends surround the two boys.

A wolf howls, and the first four chords of a very familiar theme play in the background.

Onscreen appears the show logo with a full moon as a background

The words " Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Splash on the screen.

" Wait a minute" A voice, low and throaty, calls out

The sounds of screeching brakes.

A young woman, dressed in black leather and boots, with long dark hair appears on stage as the camera pulls back, revealing the logo splashed on a rear projection screen. The young woman walks to it, and looks. She's frowning.

" Hey, this just aint right!" She calls out to nobody in particular. Taking a marker out of her jacket, she crosses out the word " Buffy".

" She's already got her own story. This one's mine." She looks and then cocks her head. " And hey, it's not only about Vampires, you know?" She crosses out " Vampire" too.

What's left is " THE SLAYER"

" Better, " She nods. She looks at the camera. " Ok, you can go on now."

She walks offstage.

The last three chords of the theme play, and it fades out.

-2-

Mid Afternoon, just outside Sunnydale, Ca.

On the road leading into Sunnydale, a bus bearing the Greyhound logo appears on the highway. Inside the bus, sitting by a window, a young woman looks out at the passing scenery, obviously bored. She is wearing a flannel shirt, which covers the black tube top she's wearing. She has on skin tight jeans, and finishing out the ensemble is a pair of heeled lace up boots. Her dark hair falls in waves over her shoulders, extending partway down her back. She has a heart shaped face, and pouty full lips, covered in a dark purple black lipstick. Her chin hints a cleft, and even not smiling, it's obvious she has deep dimples. But what really captures your attention are her eyes: They are a dark, deep brown. They have an intensity that belies her bored expression.

As the near the town of Sunnydale, the pass a sign bearing the legend : Welcome to Sunnydale. Hope you enjoy your stay. Population, 10, 996. Faith looks at the sign, and a smirk appears on her lips.

" You're shittin' me, right? I mean, I left Boston for this?" She mutters to herself, " Geeze, all of 10, 000 … wonder if Andy and Opie will be there to meet me at the bus station? Or maybe they'll already be out at the fishin' hole with Goober. Cripes, this already sucks!"

She digs into her jeans, and pulls out a folded piece of paper. From its condition, it's obvious she's handled it a lot. On it is printed the name and address of her new Watcher.

Rupert Giles, She shakes her head, God, another bloody brit. I mean, don't they have any American watchers? Maybe someone who isn't the living embodiment of Tea and Crumpets and Masterpiece Theater? Probably another ancient old fart who's clueless. Ah well, can get around him like I did the last one!

Faith sits back in her seat, slumping a little. Rolling her eyes, and making a face, it's pretty obvious that she's not liking this new assignment. But yeah, like I gotta choice. She leans back, closing her eyes.

Are we having fun yet?

-3-

She watches as the two boys pass right by her, not seeming to even see her.

" Oh yeah, she's a hottie, " Jesse says, grinning a little foolishly.

" And she agreed to date you?" Xander is doubtful.

"Xander?" Willow calls out to the retreating backs.

" Well, she just recognizes quality when she sees it, I guess" Jesse puffs up.

" Or maybe, and more likely, it was a joke, " Xander pins his balloon.

" Xander!" She calls out a second time, starting after them.

" You're just jealous because you don't have a date … in like, ever."

" Not true. I've had dates. I'm just waiting for the right one to come along to …" Xander deflates. " Whom I kidding? I don't have a date… I'm jealous."

" Ah- hah!" Jesse crows.

" XANDER!" Willow shouts.

Xander Harris turns and looks behind him. " Will. What's the what?"

" The ' what' is you're ignoring me!" Willow, a little miffed, crosses her arms.

" No I'm not. Just that Jesse is bragging about this date he's got, and I'm trying to defend the Harris name."

Willow looks back and forth between them, then settles on Jesse. " You've got a date?" She looks surprised.

" Why is that so surprising? I'm young, I'm handsome, I'm…"

" … a geeky nerd liar?…" Willow puts in.

" No, Will, you've got that covered, " Jesse replies.

" Hey, cut it Jesse, " Xander turns to him, " She's not a liar!"

" Thanks, Xander, " Willow preens a little, then realizes the left-handedness of the defense, " Hey!"

The boys laugh. " We're only kidding, Will, " Jesse says, punching her arm, " You're a cutie, you know that!"

" That's better, " She says, smiling brightly. " So, you've got a date?"

" That's right, " Jesse puffs up a little, " I'm the stud of the studly!"

" Uh-huh, " Willow replies, all innocence, " do I know her?"

" Er… no." Jesse knows what's coming, " she goes to another school."

Willow and Xander look at each other, smiling knowingly. The code for " don't got a date, or a girl… but you can't prove it"

" Ok, stud" Xander punches Jesse on the shoulder.

" Hey, she's real. She just goes to private school, is all. Her folks have money, or are old or something…"

" Private school?"

" Yeah, an all girls school on the other side of town…"

" An all girl's private school?" Xander gets a dreamy look on his face, " with the short skirts and jackets and no boys?"

" Xander?" Willow makes a wiping motion at her mouth, " drool."

Xander wipes his mouth.

" Yeah, she thinks I'm dangerous, a rebel, " Jessie grins.

Willow and Xander laugh.

" Hey, I can be a rebel."

" Right!" they both say in unison.

" So, ummm… Xander, are we on for tonight?" Willow says obliquely.

" Tonight?" Xander looks puzzled.

" Tonight?" Jesse asks, " you two got a date?"

" Yeah, remember? Study double feature. Math and English?"

" You two are dating? When did this happen? Why wasn't I informed?" Jesse grills them

" Not dating. Study date," Xander shoots back, then turns to Willow, " Oooo, Will. No. I read somewhere that too much studying? Bad for the head. Makes for the migraine headaches."

" Maybe. But you haven't done any studying… yet."

" Right. I have a perfect record, and I plan on keeping it that way."

" Xander! We talked about this. Remember? You don't want wind up sweeping the floors at the local fast food joint, and asking " Hey, Kids! Where are all the cool parties happening?" If you fail Math and English again, they're going to keep you back…"

" You mean…?" Xander has a horrified look on his face.

" That's right… another year of high school."

Xander groans. " But I was going to go to the Bronze…"

" C'mon, Willow. Look at the guy. He's obviously suffering from School work overload. He needs to Bronze, " Jesse interjects.

" But he…he needs to study!" Willow puts in weakly.

" All work and no play?" Jesse says, wisely, " will cause Xander's brain to explode. Do you want Xander's brain to explode?"

" No…" Willow sounds disappointed.

" Hey, why don't we make it a threesome?" Jesse asks.

Both Xander and Willow look at him strangely.

" I mean, at the Bronze, you goofs. You, me and Willow?"

" I shouldn't . It's a school night, and I need to study…" Willow is fishing for a little begging on the boys part.

" Oh, c'mon, Will. What Jesse said, about me? I don't want to be picking up Willow brains because… ok, now that's just gone beyond gross." Xander makes a face.

" Willow, you've got to do it. You know you've got to. Dancing, some mocha java… all the good things in life?" Jesse holds out the carrot.

" Well… I guess an hour wouldn't hurt…" Willow says, pretending to weaken. " I mean, all work and no play, right?" She looks to Xander for approval.

" That's my Will. Balancing the work and the play!" Xander drapes an arm on her shoulder. " No exploding heads here."

" Xander!" Willow punches him lightly, but smiling nonetheless.

" So, we meet at oh… say eight-ish?" Jesse says

" Sounds good, " Xander says. " And with that, I've got to get to go…" He starts out left.

" Xander?" Willow calls after him. Xander halts. " Home is that way" Willow nods to the right.

" Who said anything about home?" He starts off again. " I've got something to do…"

" But I thought we'd walk home together…" But Xander is gone.

" So, Willow? Eight o'clock?" Jesse asks.

" Right. Eight." Willow says, distracted. She's watching after Xander's disappearing back.

What's he up to? We always go home together.

She leaves, going right.

-4-

It's well past sundown when Faith is making her way up the main drag of Sunnydale.

She's not overly impressed. Mostly, it looks a lot like other small towns she's been through. Mostly houses, some businesses, a bus station, the ' downtown' area, the town government buildings. All in all, pretty dull. Nothing she hasn't seen before. Except…

Why all the churches? God, there's one on practically every block. Hoping I haven't settled in Bible belt west… not looking to be converted to anything. Even more disturbing was the graveyard. Graveyards! 12 of them. In a town like this? Geeze… and not exactly empty, either. What's going on?

But she's sensed something weird here ever since she got off the bus. There was a clannishness to the town, more than the usual Hello, how are you, when are you leaving? looks she got when she passed through small towns. She senses a nervousness, along with a kind of denial going on. Like some big secret being kept.. and hey, don't want to talk or even think about it.

She wonders if it has anything to do with why she's here. Though even that isn't all that clear to her. All the council had told her watcher… at least, what her watcher told her, was that she was needed here… that some big bad was coming up or down or from somewhere, and she was to report to Rupert Giles, who would be her watcher here.

What bothers her most is, the longer she hangs around, the more nervous she's becoming. As if whatever hanging over the town is getting to her. Be real nice to know what the hell it was! She didn't like the feeling, nor the way people seemed to be going around in some kind of ' see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' state … as if they ignored it, it would just leave them alone.

She walks down the main drag, looking. Seeing the faces of people as they pass. They're looking at her, studying her, looking at her to try to scope her out. She feels her boots pound on the pavement, all the time her eyes looking here and there, searching. All the time knowing why she's here. To kill. That's what I am, aint it? A killer. I kill things. She sees the sign over the door up ahead, and pauses. " The Bronze." She hears the music thump thumping out on the night. She smiles. She can use a little release. Something to get rid of this nervy energy coursing through her.

She stops, and looks at the door. Still haven't found Giles. She shrugs. He'll wait. He'll have to. A small smirk graces her lips as she walks into the club.

-5-

" 8:33" Willow muttered to herself, sitting the bar.

Same time plus 3 when you checked 3 minutes ago. Willow sighs. Where is he? He's supposed to be here. Both him and Jesse. She looks towards the entrance for what she thinks is the bazillionth time, hoping to see either Xander or Jesse, or both, walk through. But nothing.

Why is he always doing this? Saying he's going to meet with me, and then not showing up. Or showing up late? I don't get it. He's supposed to be my friend. My best friend! But here I'm sitting like a dufus, waiting for him to make his appearance! Gosh, I gotta be the biggest dope in Dopeyville! Why do I put up with this?

Willow drums her fingers on the bar, impatiently. Not gonna. Not anymore. You can kiss my patootie, Xander Harris, if you think you can just leave me hanging all the time. See if I hang out with you anymore. That's it! I'm going. I'm getting up. Getting up now!

Willow gets a determined look on her face. She shoves back her stool, and stands up. Then she sits down, and slides her stool back up to the bar. But what if he just got hung up? I mean, it can happen, right? I mean, with his parents? Those people are crazy! Or, he went to go get Jesse, and Jesse wasn't there. Jesse can be such a flake, you know? He might be looking for him right now! And, he might just be outside, having found him, and is coming in, and I'll be gone, and I'll miss him, and that would be bad!

Willow looks at the doorway again, anxiously. No Xander. She sighs. Right, Willow. He's just coming in. Uh-huh. Gullible much? Probably he already hooked up with Jesse, and they're in the crowd somewhere, trying to scam on some girls. Forgot all about me, I bet. Her brow furrows. Hey! I'm a girl! Why aren't they over here, trying to scam on me? Oh, that's right. Because I'm ' Will'. Good ole Will. Dependable Will. Will who, if nobody else in the universe shows up, will be here, waiting for them. Yeah, that's me…

Willow looks at her watch. " 8:38" she sighs.

Well, not tonight! Nuh-uh. Let them come and wait for me, and I'm not gonna even be here! Yeah, that'll show 'em. They'll show up, and old dependable Will won't be here! And … and they'll get all worried, and Xander will run around, trying to find me, and they won't. And Xander will get that cute little look he gets when he worries… kind of like that cute little thing that happens with his mouth when he smiles, and it's just so adorable… and his eyes… just so…so… Willow gets a slightly dreamy look on her face. No! Darn it, no! I'm done being Ms.-wait-around – til –it's- convenient-for-him-to-show-up! Willow chides herself No, I'll show him! No more…

Willow's thoughts are interrupted by a commotion on the dance floor. Curious, she looks and has a perfect view of the action.

In the center of the floor a girl, dressed in tight jeans and a halter top, is dancing. Nothing unusual, except she doesn't seem to have any personal space. Oh, and any specific partner, for that matter. It doesn't seem to matter which beefcake she's rubbing up against, as long as it's breathing. It's more like she's dancing, and her ' partners' are props, something similar to the pole in a strip club. She's shaking it down so hard, that it looks like she might shake it off. In short, she makes dirty dancing look like a minuet. Her dark long hair seems to be flying everywhere, her body is moving to some rhythm all it's own, and the other dancers have formed a semi-circle around her, cheering her on.

" Wow, " Willow almost whispers to herself, " wow" . She's never seen anything quite like it, and she's fascinated.

It's not that Willow can't dance. She can dance with the best of them, holding her own. I can do the shimmy-shimmy shake! But she's never been bold enough to even think of what this girl's doing, much less try it out. I mean, c'mon. Can you get anymore slutty? I mean, look at her! If she shakes much more, her boobies are gonna fall out! And gosh, ever hear of a mirror? She's wearing a ton of makeup … and look at the tats! Who is she? Willow continues to stare, rapt.

As she stares, she starts to daydream. And it's not that girl who's dancing, but Willow. She's dressed in a tight leather micro-mini, and long black stockings and boots and lace up bustier. And her hair is shorter, cut sort of punk, and her lips are carmine red , and she's doing the shimmy-shimmy-shake like she's never done it before. And the guy is Xander, and she turns to him, snaking her arm up against him, pushing back into him, touching his face with her palm. He has this lusty look in his eyes, and Willow knows it's for her. She smiles a wicked, sexy smile, and everyone is gathered around, cheering her on.

There's a close up of her face, and she's in heaven, smiling. She closes her eyes, and suddenly the cheers turn to jeers and laughter. When she opens them she's not dressed sexy anymore; she's back in her plaid jumpers and tennis shoes and white blouse. And Xander is pointing at her, laughing… everyone is. And she misses her step, and feels her legs betray her, and someone is poking her on the shoulder saying " Hey" …

" Hey"

Willow looks up startled.

It's the girl from the dance floor!

" Was it nice where you were?" The girl asks, smirking at her.

" Hey, " Willow blushes. She looks around. " Did you want me to go away?"

The girl looks at her a little puzzled, then laughs. " No. Actually, I was wondering if anyone was sitting here?" She points at the empty stool next to Willow.

" No, " Willow replies, not able to entirely hide her disappointment. " I guess not."

" Cool" The girls plops down, grinning. " Man, I'm sweating!' She turns towards the bar. " Hey, what's a girl got to do to get a beer around here?" She calls out.

The bartender comes over and gives her the once over. " Show I.D." He says simply.

Faith frowns." Fine, a coke then?"

The bartender leaves.

" So, what's up, girlfriend? Why're you sitting her by your lonesome?"

Willow glances at her. " Just waiting for Xander."

" Xander? Is that like your boyfriend?"

" Yeah, " Willow mumbles. " No. I mean. Xander's a boy, and he's a friend, but not like a boyfriend." Willow feels a little weird talking to a total stranger about Xander. Especially this total stranger!

" No?" She asks.

" No, I mean, we don't date or anything," Willow replies.

" How come?"

" Well, we used to date. But he left me for a blonde girl in our play group!"

" Huh?"

" We were 5"

The girl looks at her, barely suppressing a laugh.

" You're funny. Hi, I'm Faith" Faith sticks out her hand.

" Willow. Rosenberg. That's me, " Willow stumbles a little over her words. " Hi." She shakes Faith's hand. And notices the vamp nail polish.

" Hey, Willow Rosenberg That's me. Kinda long name. Lot's of syllables. Mind if I just call you Red?"

Willow looks at her confused.

" You're hair, Willow. It's cool. A nice shade of red" Faith reach out and lifts some strands.

Willow blushes.

" You do that a lot, don't you?" Faith teases her.

" Do what?"

" Blush."

" I don't !" Willow says, indignantly. Then blushes.

Faith laughs, " really?" she rags on her a little.

" HEY! There you are!"

Willow turns around and sees Xander weaving through the forest of bodies.

Faith notes in two seconds how Willow lights up in Xander's presence. Just friends, huh? Thinking little Ms. Shy Red here wouldn't mind it being a something more.

Xander, grinning his goofy grins, comes over and hugs Willow.

" Hey, Will " He says.

Willow, surprised, smiles and hugs him back.

He moves over, and hugs Faith. Willow frowns.

" I don't know you, do I?" Xander asks, still hugging her.

" Er… no" Faith smirks.

" Is this uncomfortable, or what?" He says, still hugging her.

Faith notices the daggers Willow is throwing at her with her eyes. She shoves Xander away.

" Just a little, guy." She punches him lightly on the arm." I usually start things, you know?"

Xander grips his arm " Ow!" He looks at her, smirking at him, and backs off.

" So, ummm… Will, who's your friend?" Xander turns to Willow, who's still frowning a little.

" Faith, Xander. Xander, Faith, " Willow says, her tone a little frosty.

" Hey, Faith, " Xander grins.

Faith, noting the sudden chill in the air, stands up.

" Hey, " She replies, " look, it was swell meetin' you, Red… and er… Xander… but I gotta go, you know?" She digs in her jeans, pulling out a piece of paper. " looking for this guy. Any of you know where this is?"

Xander grabs for the paper, but Willow gets it first. She looks at the name and address on the paper, and looks up at Faith, surprised.

" Giles? Rupert Giles? The school librarian?" She says, her voice reflecting her surprise, " You're looking for him?"

She gives Faith the once over. Now, at close range, she sees Faith is younger than she appeared on the dance floor. My age young. What's Giles doing with a high school hottie?

" Yeah. He's my .. .ummm… cousin."

" Cousin? Really?" Xander says, taking the words out of Willow's mouth. " He's British. And stuffy."

" And, older, " Willow adds. " Lots older."

" Well, yeah, kinda like removed a few dozen times. You know?" She sees the disbelief in Willow's eyes. " Hey, no big. I'll find him." She grabs for the piece of paper.

" No, it's ok. I know where this is. I'll take you. It's not too far from here."

" We'll take you!" Xander chimes in. Willow glares at him.

" Hey, look, guys, " Faith tries to keep the peace, " Just kinda point me in the right direction. I'll find it."

" I'll take her, " Willow says, ignoring Faith. " It's not far from here."

" Yeah, but you know what it's like on the streets after dark, Will, Lots of weirdoes out there. It's my manly duty to escort you ladies."

Both girls stare at him. He grins as he withers.

" Sit!" Willow commands.

" But Will…" Xander whines a little.

" Sit!"

Xander sits.

" Ok, then. I'll take you to Giles now, I think, " Willow grabs Faith's hand and starts towards the exit.

" Look, Red. You don't have to do this. Just point the way…"

" It's no prob. REALLY!" Willow's voice is low and determined.

Shrugging to herself, Faith allows herself to be led out.

-6-

Willow strides ahead purposefully, like a missile heading for its target. Sauntering behind her, watching her with a slightly amused expression on her face, Faith follows. Willow, realizing Faith's not with her, stops and turns. Her hands go to her hips.

" Would you hurry up?"

" Would you slow down a little?" Faith is still smiling.

" What's so funny?"

" Well, you are!"

Willow stands staring at her, open mouthed.

" Look, Red, I wasn't coming on to your boyfriend. He was comin' on to me"

" HE'S NOT MY BOYFRIEND!" Willow almost shouts.

" Yuh-huh, " Faith mocks, " and anyway, he's not my type."

Willow mutters something and turns.

" Sorry, didn't catch that, Red. What did you say?"

" I didn't think you had a ' type' " Willow turns back around.

" What's that supposed to mean?" Faith gets a little irritated.

" Well, you didn't seem to have a type when you were dancing up against any guy close to you."

" That's just dancing, " Faith gets a little defensive. Then she smiles a wicked little smile. " Sooo, you were checking me out."

" Huh? What? NO!" Willow blushes furiously, " I so wasn't checking you out!"

" Really?" Faith moves a little closer. " So how come you were all…" She cocks her head, and lets her face to slack, "… and staring at me?"

" Wasn't staring! I was looking in that direction, and you happened to be in that direction…"

Faith moves up next to Willow, draping an arm over her shoulder. She leans in closer. " So, what was going on in that head of yours while you were staring at me, huh? You seemed pretty wrapped up in it. Maybe…" she leans in and whispers something in Willow's ear.

Willow's jaw drops, her eyes going wide. She steps back and slaps Faith.

" I don't like GIRLS! I mean… not THAT way!" Willow is as red as a beet. She looks two counties over from happy.

Faith starts laughing. " Really? So how come you insisted on showing me the way to Giles? Alone? Hmmm? I'm thinking…"

" Really not caring what you're ' thinking' " Willow replies, her voice angry now. " I just don't like you messing with me or my friends!"

" Whoa! I wasn't messin' with nobody!" Faith starts to get angry. " I was just dancing…"

" Yeah, is that what you call it?" Willow jibes her.

" I was just dancing, " Faith's voice lowers, gets harder, " and I saw you staring at me. Kinda new here, thought I'd come over and find out why…and you get all postal on me now!" Faith shakes her head. " Don't know, and don't care what your deal is. All I was thinking I could like make a friend. Bad me. Shoot me."

" Maybe if you didn't act like a slut…"

That stung Faith. She comes over to Willow, who seeing her expression, suddenly wishes she were at home, in her bedroom, safe and under the covers. She backs off a step or two.

" I should dress like you? Like some kinda 'tard?" Faith's voice rises. " You know what? You act all goody two shoes, Red, but you got a wild streak in you. The shy ones? The ones that come off all Ms. Goody-Goody? Are the worst. So don't be calling me a slut!"

" Slut!" Willow finds her courage.

" GEEK!" Faith shoots back.

" Tramp!"

" Tease!"

The two of them stand almost nose to nose, glaring at each other. They stay that way until Faith breaks , and steps back.

" This is old. Just gimme the goddamn piece of paper and point. I can find it on my own!"

" Fine!" Willow hands her the paper and points.

" FINE!" Faith starts off .

" Screw you! " Willow shouts after her, turning back towards the Bronze.

" Not if I can help it, Red!" Faith taunts her.

Faith strides off, trying to cool down. Bitch. What the hell right she got to judge me? I didn't do shit to her 'cept say Hi. What a dork! God, just another reason to stay in this…

Behind her she hears a scream.

What the fuck?

She turns, and sees two large figures surrounding Willow. Even from here she can tell what they are.

Aw crap, Vampires!

She takes off running towards them. Fuck me, and I don't got a stake! Seeing a scrap piece of wood, she scoops it up.

The two vampires have Willow between them, one of them holding the struggling girl.

" You know, this was just too easy. The Master will be so pleased with the offering!"

" Yeah, " the other replies. " Didn't even have to hunt her up or anything!"

" Gotta love take out, " The first one cracks.

" Hey, Fang? Hope you don't have a sweet tooth. That one? Full of bile"

The vampires, startled, turn towards the voice. Faith is on the one holding Willow, punching him square in the face. He lets go, reeling back. Faith starts in on him, punching and kicking.

Willow stands frozen.

" Don't just stand there, you dope! RUN!" Faith yells at her, still hitting on the vampire.

Willow finds her legs, and starts to take off…right into the second vamp, who catches her. She screams.

" Could you be any MORE useless?" Faith grouses, pulling back and staking the vampire she's attacking. It crumples into dust.

" One down, " Faith turns and raises the stake. " One to go." She starts towards the vamp.

" Back off…I've got your friend!" The vampire puts his hands to her neck. " One move, and she's dead."

" Yeah, and she's not dead, otherwise?" Faith smirks, " Anyway, not my friend. Go ahead, I'll just stake you after…"

The vampire looks at her, and sees she's not kidding. He growls, and throws Willow at Faith, and turns tail, running off.

" Man, that's rude. Offer them a free meal, and they throw it back in your face."

Willow, dazed, is shivering in her arms. She looks up at Faith.

" Who… what… who were they?"

" Just some punks."

" They bit me!"

" What? Where?"

Willow points at her neck. Faith inspects the wound… bite marks, but not too deep… and not on a major artery.

" You'll live." She puts an arm around Willow, who's not resisting. She starts walking up the street.

" Where are we going?" Willow is still dazed.

" To Giles, " Faith says, supporting the red-headed girl.

" Don't wanna go to Giles. Wanna go home!"

" Shut up. You need first aid. Get you home after."

They walk along quietly for awhile, Willow leaning heavily on Faith. Then she stops dead, almost tripping Faith in the process.

"What did you mean, ' Go ahead?' "

" What?"

" You told him ' Go ahead, I'll just stake you after.' What did you mean? You were gonna let him kill me?"

" No, moron. I just wanted to throw him off. It worked, right?"

" I guess, " Willow sounds doubtful. " Stake him? What?"

" Just shut up. We're here."

-7-

Rupert Giles is more than a little upset. Which is something, considering he's usually the paradigm of calm.

But this isn't usually. His slayer is missing. He's somehow misplaced his slayer, and he has no idea how that happened.

She was supposed to be here 5 hours ago. He looks at his watch again. I checked the bus station. The airport. I've been around town, and still haven't located her. He sits down on the sofa to think.

Normally, a slayer being late isn't a problem. Seeing how there is only one, and that she has to move around from trouble spot to trouble spot, scheduling can be a bit dicey. But there are factors at work here.

First of all, this is Rupert Giles' first slayer. His real first field assignment. He worked hard to get it, and now it looks as if it might end before it even begins. Secondly, although the bus ticket was bought, he hasn't been able to keep track of her on the trip cross country. She hasn't phoned in once. This is particularly unnerving for him, because from the reports that her former watcher sent into the council, she is a bit of a … problem. Nothing serious, really, just pretty strong minded. Stubborn. She does things her own way. Who knows what mischief she's gotten up to traveling alone across country? That was another thing that bothered him. She should've been escorted, flown in from Boston. But for some reason, the council wanted her to go it alone on a bus. Cheap bloody burkes!

Now she was five hours late getting here. The bus was on time. He called the station, then went to see if anyone had seen her… but of course, no one had. She must be out there… maybe walking around town. But why didn't she check in first? Maybe she was attacked! Maybe she's lying hurt somewhere… I better start checking the hospitals, make sure she hasn't been admitted. Damn!

He stands up, heading for the phone. This is going to look bad. Losing my slayer on my first watch. He just reaches the phone when there's a pounding on his front door. What in …

He rushes to the front door, flinging it open to find two girls standing there. He recognizes Faith from her picture the council sent him. Willow he knows from his cover job as school librarian at Sunnydale high.

" Faith! Where have you been? I've been worried about you…" He then notices Willow's condition. " Oh my, what's happened to her?"

" A little help here, Jeeves, " Faith says, moving past him half carrying Willow.

" Giles, " He corrects her. He helps her get Willow to the sofa.

" Whatever. She could use a little first aid, if you catch my drift." She sits by Willow, inspecting the wound.

" What happened?" Giles asks, looking down at the injured Willow.

" Now would be good!" Faith snaps, nodding her head that he should go get some bandages.

" Right," he says, hurrying off to the bathroom.

He returns with a small med kit, that he places on the coffee table. He opens it, and extracts bandages and antiseptic. He turns to Willow, daubing the wound on her neck with the antiseptic.

" What happened?" Giles says, turning to Willow.

" She was mugged, " Faith says, raising a brow.

" They bit me, " Willow complains. " OUCH!"

" Sorry, tends to sting." Giles turns to get bandages. " She was mugged?"

" Yeah… by those muggers without suntans that like to come out at night, and bite their victims."

" Oh, right," Giles places a bandage on the wound. " Did you…take care of them."

" Shoot howdy she did, " Willow says, touching the bandage. " But why did they bite me… and one of them, when you … he…with the wood… he dissolved…?" She looks at both of them. She turns to Faith. " Where'd you learn to do that?"

" Dissolved? Don't be an idiot, Red. Of course he didn't dissolve. He was just scared… ran away really fast."

" I saw what I saw. I'm not a child, " Willow touches her neck. " And his face was funny… all lumpy or something."

" Drugs… he was probably on drugs, " Giles puts in. We can't exactly tell her she was attacked by vampires. " Perhaps he had rabies."

Willow looks at Giles, then at Faith. She's not buying the explanations.

" What drug makes you want to bite? Rabies? He wasn't acting crazy… well, he was, but not loony. And since when do rabid …anything hunt in packs? Or wait to mug you? And still doesn't explain why when she stuck him, he turned to dust." She looks at the both of them. " Something weird is going on around here, and you're not telling me everything… what is it?" She looks at them again." And if she's your cousin, I'm not seeing it. So, what's the what here?"

Faith and Giles look at each other. Faith shrugs, as if saying " Don't look at me." Giles sighs, and looks at Willow. His face takes on a serious expression.

" Alright, Willow. I'm going to tell you something. But it's a secret, and I need you to promise you won't tell anyone."

Willow perks up. Secret? Cool! Her imagination runs away with her, and she imagines people in trench coats and hats passing secret information. Maybe Giles is a British spy… on special assignment. Wait, in Sunnydale? She looks at him, all ears.

" What? I promise, I won't tell anyone. What is it?"

" What happened tonight? You were attacked by vampires, " Giles looks at Faith. " Faith is a vampire slayer. In each generation, a slayer is born. One girl in all the world with the strength, speed and ability to fight …"

" Yada, yada, yada, Giles. She doesn't need the pep talk, " Faith says. She walks over to Willow. " Thing is, I kill vampires. Ok? That's what I do."

Willow looks at one, then the other. She stands up, and her face flushes.

" Ok, I think I've had enough for tonight. Maybe for the rest of my life, " Her tone turns angry, " I don't know what your game is, and I don't wanna know!" She heads for the door, then turns. " All I know is, you're lying to me. Lying, or your both loonies. Whatever the case, I'm outta here. Thanks for the rescue, and the bandaging. But the rest? Please!"

" Willow, don't. It's not safe out there. At least, let Faith walk you home, " Giles says, starting towards her.

" Uh-huh. And I'm really safe with her? Don't think so. God, you two!" She turns, and opening the door, walks out.

Two seconds later, she's back, running for her life. They hear a growl, and a vampire appears at the doorway. It tries to enter, but is stopped as if it hit an invisible wall.

" What…what? " Willow stutters, backing away.

" Giles, stake!" Faith says, already rushing to the door.

Giles throws her a stake, which she catches without even looking. Before the vampire can move, Faith stakes it in the heart. It pauses briefly, then turns to dust.

" How… he… why didn't he attack me? He just stood there… I don't …what?" Willow looks pale and shaky.

" A vampire can't enter a home unless someone living there invites him," Faith says, going to Willow. " You ok?"

" I think I need very much to sit down now, " Willow says, her legs collapsing under her. Faith catches her, and helps her to the sofa. Willow just stares at the floor. In a very quiet voice, she says, " I don't get this. Any of it."

" I don't understand it, either. Vampires aren't usually that bold. They don't usually attack someone so close to home… they tend to lurk in dark alleys." Giles walks over to the doorway, looking at the pile of dust that was once a vampire. " Very strange, indeed."

" Strange doesn't even cover it, Jeeves. " Faith says, walking to the door. " Never seen vamps do that before. Something weird's going down here."

" Giles. My name is Rupert Giles, Faith." Giles is still perturbed about Faith's tardiness.

" Yeah, well, whatever, it's still weird."

Willow looks over the edge of the sofa. Her face is even paler, if that's possible.

" Y-You guys… weren't kidding? It's real? Vampires… are real?"

" No jokes, Red. The pointy tooth crowd? For reals" Faith says, turning back towards the interior.

" And… he…it … bit me? Does that mean?" She blanches , " I'm gonna be one of them" She points at the pile of dust in the doorway.

" I doubt it. You didn't lose enough blood…and he didn't make you drink, did he?"

" Noooo…." Her face goes green. " I think I'm gonna ... uhhh" She jumps up, rushing towards the bathroom.

Faith walks into the center of the room. She shrugs. " Wimp."

" This is an unmitigated disaster, " Giles says, closing the door.

" What're you talking about, Giles?" Faith looks impatient.

" Where have you been?" Giles turns on her, angrily. " You were supposed to be here over 5 hours ago. I was worried something had happened to you. Why didn't you check in?"

" Geeze, Giles. You were worried? How touching!" Faith says. " I was walking around, checking out the place. Didn't know this was like the military, where I gotta check in with you all the time!"

" All the time?" Giles' voice raises in anger. " All the time? You didn't check in once. I was out of contact with you for nearly a week. You've got to let us know where you are. What if something had happened to you? How would we know where to find you? To even look for you?"

" Don't go all mom on me. I had one of those, " Faith dismisses him. " Look, Giles, I'm the slayer. Not you. I know what I gotta do, and I do things the way I know how. I don't need you lookin' over my shoulder 24/7. Got it?"

" You're right. You are the slayer, and that's a sacred duty. You have responsibilities. To me, the council, to the world. This isn't just a job, Faith. It's your destiny. You were chosen above all to fight vampires and demons. So you've got to show a little maturity." Giles turns away from her. " You can't just run off and … and… ' do your own thing' ."

" Geeze. Do you own thing? Stuck in the seventies, are we?" Faith throws up her hands. " God, what the hell do you want from me?"

" I want you to take this seriously. This isn't a joke. You can't just blow it off. You're the slayer, and you've got a sacred duty to perform until…"

"What? I die? Yeah, I know Giles. I know that. I don't get out until I die!" Faith goes over and confronts him. " And that's like what? 6 months? A year? Two years? Maybe I'll get lucky and see my 18th birthday. You know that no slayer has ever lived beyond 25. What the hell do I got to look forward to, Giles? Fighting, hurting, until I die? That's what!" She turns away, angry beyond words. She walks over to the couch and throws herself down on it. " I'm a kid, Giles. Hell, I just turned 16. Sometimes, I like to act like one, you know? I blow off steam. I think I got that coming. So, if you don't like it? Fuck the hell OFF!" She turns away from him, crossing her arms over her chest.

Giles stands staring at the back of her head. He walks over, and puts a hand on her shoulder, which she shrugs off.

" I'm sorry, Faith. I was worried. And now, with Willow knowing who you are, it just makes things dicier for you. If it gets out who you are, you could be in grave danger. Her, too."

" I won't tell, " A voice behind them startles them. They'd forgotten about Willow.

She is standing in the hallway entrance to the living room. Her mouth is slightly agape; but her expression is serious. She walks over, standing in front of Faith.

" I'm sorry… I didn't know."

" Just forget it. It's no big, " Faith says, not looking at her. " Not looking for your pity, ok?"

" Wasn't pitying you. Just wanted…"

" Forget it, ok?" Faith stands up. " Look, can you get her home? I gotta go patrol, then I wanna get a room so I can get some sleep." She starts towards the door.

" Actually, speaking of that…" Giles starts.

" What?"

" I don't think it's a good idea for you to stay in one of those places. I've made other arrangements for you."

" Other arrangements? You're not expecting me to stay here, are you?" Faith stares at him. " At least the flea traps downtown got a bed. Not sleepin' on a couch, got it? Not after fighting all night, " Her smile turns wicked. " Unless of course…"

For a second, neither Giles nor Willow gets it. Then Giles does, and his cheeks turn pink.

" That… is just disgusting, Faith, " Giles says. " And it's not appropriate you live here, anyway."

Willow gets it. She blushes. " You mean… oh my god…" She turns away.

" She does that a lot, you know, " Faith chuckles at Willow's discomfort. " Chill, Red. I was only yankin' Giles' chain." She walks over to him, " So, what's this ' arrangement' you made for me?"

" Well, maybe in a way it's fortuitous you met up with Willow. I talked with the Rosenbergs , and it seems they have a small apartment over the garage they're willing to rent out."

Both girls look stricken. They stare at Giles. Almost simultaneously they say:

" Live with her? You gotta be kidding!"

" Look here, JEEVES! There's no fucking way I'm living with her…"

" Hey. That was supposed to be mine this year. You mean she's gonna live in it now? That's not FAIR!"

" Well, don't get your panties in a bunch, Red. I mean, if you gotta hot date, don't worry, I'll … what am I saying? You? Hot date? Not gonna happen!"

" How would you know?" Willow turns red, not from embarrassment. " But think I'd even want to? Knowing that you had who knows what in there … can you spell barf?"

" Oh right, I'm gonna bring somebody back to Ward and June Cleaver's house … uh-huh. " Faith turns on Giles. " You can't do this! I won't live with that… geek!"

" Yeah, and I'm sure not gonna live with that slut!"

" BE QUIET! THE BOTH OF YOU!" Giles, in a rare mood, yells.

The two stand chastised, but angry nonetheless.

" Now this is how it's going to go. First of all, you won't be living ' with ' Willow… you'll be in the garage in back."

" Yeah… the one I was supposed to have." Willow grumbles.

" And Willow? I'm sorry, but I can't have Faith staying at one of those sleaze traps downtown. Besides which, being public accommodations, she wouldn't be safe if vampires attacked her there."

" Right. Safe. With the Cleavers watching over me, right? How'm I gonna explain my coming and goings, genius?"

" I've already told them you were my research assistant. That I'm writing a history, and you'd often be out evenings, helping me do research."

Willow looks at Faith and almost bursts out laughing, " Oh yeah, my parents are gonna believe SHE'S a research assistant!"

" HEY!" Faith turns to Willow, " just because I don't make my fashion choices out of a Sears Catalogue…"

" No, you shop at Sluts 'R Us!"

" That's it!" Faith starts toward Willow, " I'm so tired of your crap, you uptight tight assed nerd!" She raises her fist, " I'm gonna pound that smart ass of yours into the ground…"

Willow is clearly frightened, but angry herself." Go ahead, do it! " She taunts her, " Do your thinking with your fists, right? Go on, you… you… well, I can't think of what to call you, but it's bad…."

" STOP IT!"

Both girls stop, and stare at Giles.

" You two are unbelievable. There is more, a lot more, at stake here than you're personal feelings. You're always complaining that you want to be treated like an adult. Well, start acting like it, and not like children on the playground. I don't care if you like each other, but you will stop this … childishness now!"

Both stand silent. It's obvious this isn't over, but for now a silent truce has been called.

" Sorry," Faith says, through tight lips.

" Sorry, Giles, " Willow makes no bones about the fact she's not sorry for what she said to Faith.

" That's better. Now, if you would be so kind, Faith, take Willow home."

" I gotta get my stuff…"

" Where are your things?"

" At the Bus Station, downtown. In a locker."

" Give me the key. I'll retrieve your things and bring them to you." Giles holds out his hand.

" Couldn't you just take her, and I'll get my stuff and then …"

" What? Go missing for a couple of days?" Giles is in no mood for argument. " So far you haven't shown me much reason to depend on you , Faith," then he smiles, " besides, I think you two need to get to know each other better. If you'd both get over your pigheadedness, you might find each has something to offer the other."

Yeah, right. We can be study buddies, and do each other's hair, and giggle and have pajama parties. Oh, I'm so looking forward to that! Faith is already hating this.

Sure, she can teach me to be a slut, and I can dress like a whore and wear enough makeup to paint Sunnydale high. Yeah, sure, we got so much to offer each other .Uh-huh. Willow frowns. Why me? What did I do to deserve… that? She glares at Faith.

" It probably would be best if you got her home before midnight, Faith."

" Fine, whatever. Let's go, Red."

" You're not boss of me, " Willow says, folding her arms over her chest, " we'll go when I'm ready." Giles gives her a look. " Ok, I'm ready now."

With that, she marches out the door, not waiting for Faith. Faith turns and gives Giles a dirty look. Then she follows Willow out.

Giles watches them leave, with just the faintest hint of a smile on his face.

-8-

Elsewhere in Sunnydale. Or rather, underneath Sunnydale, three Vampires meet in a large underground cave. There are candles everywhere, providing illumination. In the background, half buried in the earth are the remains of what was once a church.

One of the vampires is facing the other two. He has his arms crossed over his chest, and he looks angry. He is obviously the leader, as the other two are deferring to him. He is old; very old. He is bald, and his features barely resemble the human he once was; rather, they have taken on an almost bat-like appearance. He is dressed all in leather.

" … so I ask you for one little thing. An offering. Something to feed on, to build up my strength. You know the Harvest is coming soon. And what do I have?" He raises his hands, palms up. His tone is deceptively light. " Nothing."

" We had one master, honestly. A fine one, young and fresh." One of the vampires replies.

" Is that so? Well, where is this choice little morsel, then?" The Master glances at the vampire, " I don't see it here" he points next to him, " or there," he points to the other side, " Oh, wait, maybe…" He jabs his finger out, jabbing the fawning vampire in his eye. " No, not there, either. Dear me, where did it go?"

The vampire screams, clutching his eye.

" There was another… that came to her aid, master. She was strong. She killed Evan, and was going to kill me." The other vampire puts in, " I fought her, I did… but she was too strong for me, so …"

"… you ran." The Master glares at him for a moment, and the second vampire wilts. He walks off from them, standing apart. " This is very disappointing." He stands pondering for a few moments. " Tell me more about this girl… the one that attacked you."

" She was fast, Master. Very fast. She seemed to be everywhere at once, " the first vampire, still clutching his eye, puts in.

" She was strong, stronger than a normal human. And she seemed to know about us… vampires."

" I sent 4 of you out, and only two return. Where's Ezekiel?"

" Dust. Like Evan, " the second vampire replies. " We followed them back to their home. We waited, and one came out… but she managed to elude us, ran back in, and Ezekiel followed. The other one, the dark haired one… staked him."

" Ezekiel was one of my best." He looks at the two, " This is very interesting. Fast, stronger than human, knows about us…I would say we have a Slayer come to Sunnydale."

The two vampires look at each other, a little nervously. " What do we do, Master?"

" We wait, we plan. She mustn't interfere with the coming Harvest. That is critical. But …." The master smiles, not a pleasant sight, " … it might be interesting to have a slayer around. Give me something interesting to do when I …" he puts his hand up, and a wave of energy seems to stop it from going forward, "… get out of my prison, and return to the surface."

" Should we hunt her , Master? Hunt her down, and kill her?" The first vampire asks.

" Like you did this evening?"

The two lower their eyes.

" No, not yet. I was fearing that even getting out of here, and returning to the surface, might be somewhat… tiresome. When you've lived as long as I, it's hard to find anything to interest you. But a slayer in the mix? " He nods, contemplating the possibilities, " that might be interesting."

" Very interesting, indeed."

To be continued