Displaced rage

Author notes: Takes place third season. Post Faith Hope and Trick, pre Revelations.

More times than she could recall, whenever they had gone slaying, Faith had always gotten off on it, nearly to a degree that alarmed Buffy. Of course, Buffy often enjoyed slaying herself, whether or not she'd ever admit it to anyone and thus sound like the freak of the century. She enjoyed the rush that came over her as she chased the bad guys down, enjoyed the surge of adrenaline that spread in a tingling sensation throughout her limbs as she drove her stake into their hearts, the satisfaction she got from watching them explode into dissolving clouds of dust. She got that, she really did…

But for Faith, it wasn't the kill, or even the chase, that seemed to give her such a thrill… it was the beating. Not the blows Buffy delivered in self-defense, to get the vamps to back off or weaken enough so that she could stake them. No, Faith never ended it so easily as that…

Faith's way, rather, was to continue the fight until it was entirely one-sided, until she had the vampire lying helpless on the ground, gasping and pleading for mercy… if he was able to speak at all. Her way was to drive into them, hitting, kicking, and punching with a rapid ferocity that could hurt, but not kill…

Time and time again, Buffy had watched Faith take a deliberately lengthy amount of time, sometimes to the detriment of Buffy's or her own safety, to recklessly whale on some vampire who was far from a match for her strength. With each blow, Faith's face would glow, her eyes shining with savage glee as she smiled viciously, her dimples seeming in strong contrast with the violence in her eyes, coming out through her fists. Sometimes she beat them until her own knuckles bled, if Buffy let her… and failing that, she drove her stake into them, over and over, everywhere but to their heart… just to maximize their pain. It was almost a letdown for her when she finally decided or was made by Buffy to stake them, and they were nothing but dust beneath her.

Watching her, Buffy was incredulous, almost afraid… there was always a look about Faith's eyes that seemed slightly unfocused, as if she were not fully there in the present. A look that made Buffy think that maybe it wasn't a vampire she saw each time, but rather something else entirely…

One time she found herself asking, blurting out before she could rethink, re-judge the wisdom of her question… it was just after Faith had finally dusted the vampire she had been beating on for the past ten minutes. Buffy was standing a slight distance apart, just shaking her head… as her eyes fell to Faith's split knuckles, then back up to meet the younger Slayer's slightly disappointed dark eyes, the words came out before she even knew she was thinking them.

"Faith…when you're hitting vamps like that, just hurting them without letting yourself kill them yet… who is it that you're really seeing?"

Right away Buffy knew her words had been a mistake. Faith froze, her eyes widening, and the emotions that flashed across them were vivid and unmistakable. Anger, shock, shame, embarrassment, fear… and pain. Mostly, what overshadowed everything was a pain that Buffy had never noticed so strongly before…

Abruptly Faith had turned and fled, taking off down the street in a direction that Buffy did not recognize as leading to any place in particular. And maybe that was the point…maybe Faith was trying to go somewhere that had no familiar ties, somewhere that no one would see her or know her, somewhere that she could be wholly anonymous and alone. Buffy had watched her with some anxiety, guilt gnawing at her stomach…but simultaneously, she had done nothing about it.

She debated going after Faith…and when that opportunity had lost itself, she debated whether she should stop by her motel later, make sure she gotten back okay. What if she didn't' come back home at all- what if she skipped town, or got herself in a vamp situation recklessly that was beyond her capability? If Faith didn't come back…if something happened to her… it would be Buffy's fault…

No, Buffy told herself quickly, not it wouldn't be. This is all Faith… don't' blame yourself for something that was her decision, her reaction. You didn't do anything wrong… all you did was ask a question, she didn't have to flip out like that.

All she ever does is run, from everyone and everything…if she can't learn to face things she doesn't like…well, that's her deal.

But even as she reassured herself, even as she made her way home alone, unease continued to gnaw at Buffy… and some part of her wished she had just run after Faith in the first place.

The next day, Faith had shown up after school at the library, just like usual, acting like nothing had happened the night before. She was all flirtacious grins and suggestive comments, restless shifting and confident swagger… and she didn't' say a word to Buffy about the night before.

Buffy tried to follow her lead, acting as if nothing had happened, as if it really hadn't been a big deal. And she could almost convince herself that it hadn't been, that they had both made too much of things.

But then she would catch Faith watching her furtively, from the corner of her vision…and she'd remember the look in Faith's eyes, the near panicked way she had ran, and Buffy knew that they hadn't. But how was she supposed to bring up a girl's past, when she wouldn't even let her into her present?