All Disclaimers in Chapter 1
Unable to bring themselves to completely trust or partially trust the former goddess that had invaded their lives, Buffy and Faith refused to allow Zandaleigh to take them to where the immortal promised her mother was hiding out. Instead, they were convinced that they could find out more information from the minions that would be running around during their sweeps, if in fact Zandaleigh's mother did have any dastardly plans.
Zandaleigh took their news of mistrust without surprise and only replied flippantly that, "people usually do have to die before I'm believed." She followed the Slayers during their sweeps and stayed well out of their way. She even remained all-knowingly silent until the trail of vampires led them to an old abandoned house at the edge of the town.
"What's that smell?" Buffy asked as she carefully pushed open the front door.
"It's death," Zandaleigh answered as she pushed ahead of Buffy, not caring whether the threat of danger loomed upon them or not. "This is what my mother does." She motioned to the front room of the house.
The slayers had walked into a lot of horrendous scenes in their lives as the fighters against evil, but what greeted them in the house was worse than the rest combined. The walls, the ceilings, the floors, every surface available were covered in blood and sliced flesh. The blood had become sticky and as they walked further into the house their shoes made a horrendous squishing sound.
"Why?" Buffy's voice rebounded off of the walls and fell harshly into the room.
"All the evil you've run into has had a purpose, right? They want the world, they want entertainment, right?" Zandaleigh didn't wait for either of the slayers to respond. "Well mother's motives are fairly simple. She likes to see suffering and pain and she has always understood that gaining power of the world was a long shot. She just wants to have her fun where she can and while she can."
"Kind of like you, huh?" Faith knew that probably wasn't the least hostile thing she could have said, but she was still angry at Zandaleigh for messing with her earlier.
"You've never been afraid to find the fun, have you Faith." Zandaleigh didn't bother to remove her attention from the aftermath of the massacre that surrounded them. "Always more of an instant gratification type instead of a level-headed thinker. Ultimately you're a waist of a soul and a waist of the power you've been privileged to gain, a nobody with too much bravado and not enough substance."
"Hey!" Buffy decided to speak up when she realized Faith wasn't going to.
Zandaleigh ignored her but finally focused her attention on Faith. "Don't try to hurt me with words, Faith, because I'll win every time."
"Look, we just need to focus on what went on here," Buffy interjected again. "I think it's way beyond obvious that we're never going to be best friends."
Zandaleigh licked her lips while her eyes roamed over Buffy's body. "You don't want to be my friend?"
It had taken Faith years of introspection and meditation to gain full control over her own instinct to impulsively act out without regard. Faith had matured and somehow along the way she had become a stable adult who learned from her past. Perhaps that was why she was so surprised when she felt her body leaping at Zandaleigh's taller form more than ready to tear the former goddess apart.
Zandaleigh had anticipated Faith's action, more than anticipated actually. She expected it. She wanted it just so she could prove to the mortals that she was indeed a very serious person. Faith swung her fist out towards Zandaleigh's face and Zandaleigh caught it without flinching. She used Faith's own momentum to swing her into one of the bloodied walls. Faith body bounced down to the floor.
Buffy went to Faith and helped her up. Zandaleigh smiled at them both. "All fun and games aside," she said as she watched them callously, "I'm quite serious when it comes to my mother, you understand. I let people see her," she waved her hand around the room, "work before I normally take charge of the situation. Most people don't trust me, you see. They doubt my sincerity because they have ways of convincing themselves that I'm either working with or for her. They have these ill conceptions that they can use my mother's actions as a venue for judging me. It's like I've mentioned more than once, people usually have to die before I'm taken seriously. So pull yourselves together Slayers and get serious about this." She turned away from them and then walked out of the house. She was done with them for the moment.
"Are you okay?" Buffy asked Faith as she did a quick examination of her lover's body.
"Fine," Faith replied even though she could feel a deep bruise forming on her back and was relatively sure that Zandaleigh might have broken a few bones in her hand when the immortal caught her fist.
"What do you want to do?" Buffy took Faith's weight onto herself, not needing Faith to admit to her pain to realize that it was there.
"Right now," Faith gasped as she took a tentative step, "I think I want to try and kill her again."
"I'm not completely opposed," Buffy agreed. "But what about Zandaleigh's mother?"
When they had moved to New Mexico and settled down and started to do slayer stuff again, Buffy realized that she was more than tired of making unilateral decisions about the actions they should take when facing a new Big Bad. She was done with being the one in charge, the one with the burden of all the responsibility. That's why she consulted Faith now, even though she knew that the right thing to do and that the best thing to do would be to take Zandaleigh seriously and get ready to fight some ancient god that no one cared about anymore. Buffy's decision was already sixty-five percent decided in her head, but she wasn't willing to decide it all on her own.
In this relationship, she wasn't the leader. Here, things weren't centered on her and what she was going to do. Here, in this small town in the middle of the desert, she was in a partnership and that meant that if Faith didn't want to pursue this then they wouldn't. They would leave Zandaleigh to solve her own problems.
But like Buffy had developed a sense of democratic thinking, Faith had long sense developed a sense of duty that went beyond the excitement of being a hero. "We've gotta take her on, B."
Eventually they made it out of the house, where Zandaleigh was comfortably waiting sitting against the curb. She turned and looked at the two Slayers already knowing that they had taken her advice and gotten serious about her mother. "Do you want me to heal your back, Faith, or are you into the pain?"
"You can do that?" Buffy asked somewhat surprised, although not quite sure why she was. She had seen stranger things.
"I'm not just full of evil and destruction, you know. I did have a father and he was a very good person. He did his best to help mortals and they certainly never made it easy for him. My mother killed him." Zandaleigh moved closer to the Slayers. "So now you have my motive for revenge. Do you want help with your back or not, Faith?"
The immortal looked uncomfortably close to displaying an actual emotion, and Faith could easily see something she could exploit. "Yeah. It'd be good if I could walk without the shooting pains." Faith was going soft and she knew it.
"Alright," Zandaleigh took a careful step closer to Faith, keeping her eyes on Buffy to make sure that the older slayer wasn't going to try and attack her. She pushed up Faith's shirt and exposed the massive bruise that had settled on the base of Faith's spine. "This won't hurt," Zandaleigh told Buffy, "but it does have side effects."
"What?" Faith asked.
Zandaleigh smirked. "Well," she drew out the word, "you'll feel kind of euphoric. Don't worry," Zandaleigh pressed her hands against Faith's back, "I'll leave you two alone when I'm done." A red burst of energy flew from Zandaleigh's hands into Faith's back.
"Fuck," Faith whispered but it wasn't from pain.
Buffy easily recognized Faith's tone and cast a suspicious eye towards Zandaleigh. Zandaleigh winked at her and pulled her hand away from Faith. The bruise had already disappeared. "Don't say I never gave you any gifts." Zandaleigh said then quickly pressed her hand to Buffy's neck with the same red glow covering her fingers.
"God," Buffy gasped as Zandaleigh's fingers made contact with her skin.
"I'll see you two later." Zandaleigh pulled away from them both. "Be careful." The two slayers jumped at each other and Zandaleigh was fairly certain that at least one of them had growled. "Or not." She straightened her shirt as she cast a long glance at the two mortals in front of her. She shook her head once then walked away from them, knowing that eventually their location would seep into their haze and they would move to a better area.
Zandaleigh walked through the empty streets until she stood in front of an opening to a cave. Five vampires stood guard and upon spotting Zandaleigh's form they readied to attack. Zandaleigh's eyes flashed and she reached for the nearest vampire tearing his head right from his body. "Back off!" She told the remaining four. "I don't like worthless demons like you threatening me."
"You're the Honored One," The smartest of the bunch quickly realized. "Our master has been expecting you."
"Well you can tell her she'll need to wait longer. I'm not ready to kill her yet." She turned away from the cave and walked away from the vampires and the presence of her mother that she could feel pulling at her. She walked back down into the empty highway streets and continued to walk away from her only flesh.
Meanwhile, whatever Zandaleigh had infused the slayers with had long since worn off and the two found themselves naked, bruised, scratched, and satiated in the middle of an empty field not too far away from the prying eyes of a nearby rattlesnake. They could barely remember what they had done or how they had gotten to their current location. They felt hung over and each had a headache that made their vision blurry and their sense of balance altered.
Zandaleigh had done this to them. She had been able to control them and whether their experience had been pleasurable or not, they now had a much better understanding of how dangerous the former goddess actually was. She was a lot more than an annoying idiot who liked to play a joke every once in a while.
"We need to go back home," Buffy said as she pulled her shirt back over her head, unconcerned with trying to find her bra first.
"Yeah," Faith finished buttoning up her jeans.
"How's your back?" Buffy stood up and put her arms around Faith. "I didn't--we didn't--does it hurt?"
"It's fine." Faith forced a smile on her face. "Feels stronger even. Like she healed everything."
"I know what you mean," Buffy admitted having noticed that a few places on her body that had begun to ache over the years suddenly didn't ache so much anymore.
Faith pulled out of Buffy's hold. "Let's just get home, okay?"
Buffy knew not to be hurt by the distance that Faith put between them. She understood that Zandaleigh had somehow managed to frighten Faith and that her partner was feeling a little weaker and more exposed than normal, but Buffy wasn't left unaffected. Zandaleigh kind of scared her now too. "We can handle this, Faith." She said as she pulled on her own pants.
"Of course we can," Faith forced another smile. "Nothing ever beats us, B." She believed what she was saying, to a certain extent, but she hadn't quite been able to get over their last big fight with their last big Big Bad. She had been looking forward to living out her life with Buffy in this small middle of nowhere fighting demons that didn't have a lot of initiative. Faith liked living this life, where they could talk about the future as if it were actually going to happen instead of like it was just something they wished for but never actually expected.
But apparently, since all the dust had settled and evil started to want to get active again, it turned out that she and Buffy were still the only 'real' slayers around and that for some reason or another meant that evil just wanted to get a chance to fuck with them as often as possible. So that also consequently meant that they really couldn't alter destiny. It just wasn't in their power to do so. Sure, they could push it around a little bit and change its appeal but they couldn't really change it nor could they run from it.
"I love you, Buffy."
Buffy stumbled as she was putting back on her boot. She looked Faith over carefully before replying, "I love you too." She wanted to ask questions and wanted to know what exactly it was going through Faith's head, but she kept her silence. She kept it because she wasn't entirely sure that she was ready to talk about what exactly it was she was feeling and she certainly would have to if she was going to demand that of Faith.
They finished getting dressed and slowly walked back to their empty house, their unwanted guest not yet having returned. They showered together and cleaned up each other's wounds then went to bed and lied in each other's arms. Maybe tomorrow they would talk about having to save the world being forced back under their sphere of responsibility. Maybe they would talk about how to beat a god. Either way, as they each fell asleep they silently hoped there would be no need to talk about any of that. They hoped that somehow, Zandaleigh's mother would just disappear.