"Ah, I have it! Her name is Faith Lehane," Giles declared, ending the biggest mystery of the day. Vanquished, it was, not by the sword, but by the watcher's ever-present contacts at the Council. "Born in 1981 in a small suburb of Boston. Her watcher's name is, er, was, Diana Dormer. It would seem that Faith is the true second Slayer."

Giles, Willow, and Xander had been in full research mode ever since an anonymous call came to Giles' apartment the night before. The person on the line had directed him to a particular room at Sunnydale Memorial Hospital and the odd girl within. Although sedated, battered, and seemingly at death's door, the Watcher had almost instantly recognized that this girl was either a potential Slayer or the next in line after Kendra. No other creature but a Slayer, human or otherwise, could have possibly remained alive after such a beating.

Xander was the first to shut his section of books. He had been slated to randomly looking through the large plethora of Californian yearbooks that were on file, trying to match a face. "Great! Did you get her medical history? I think she's going to be needing it for a loooong time."

"Do you know what happened to her yet?" Willow asked, ignoring Xander. "S-she didn't look too good."

"Oh, come on! We know what happened to her!" Xander replied, again voicing his opinion. "My guess is that psycho Buffy found her and didn't want some competition."

The Watcher, who had been listening silently up until now, slipped off his glasses to clean them. "Now, we don't know that. Slayers have, in the past, been brought low by a simple vampire before they can acquire the experience needed to defend themselves properly. In fact, that's how a majority of them die." He didn't mean to sound somber, but it was just a fact of being in this business. "And do you believe that Buffy has fallen so far? You were her friends for over a year now," he pointed out.

Neither Willow nor Xander replied, each silently answering the question. Buffy, the old Buffy, would have never killed anyone. No matter what, it wouldn't happen. That image of their friend had been shattered in one stroke and neither teen was going to recover anytime soon.

Willow, however, at least tried to stay positive. "Do you think Faith is awake yet? We could just ask her instead of sitting here wondering."

"Excellent idea, Willow. When I talked to the hospital last, they had finished removing all of the...shot, as they called it, from her arm. I believe it would be alright for a quick visit," Giles agreed. "At the very least, we can find out what happened to her Watcher. The Counsel has no idea what lead up to the poor woman dying the way she did."

Though no one was really as enthusiastic as Giles, they had nothing better to do at the moment so they went along without issue. Since they all couldn't fit in Giles' tiny car, Oz offered up his van for the trip and they were all soon on the way to Sunnydale Memorial. The mood wasn't lifted by Willow's attempt at idle chit-chat and Xander was still being broody.

It wasn't as if Giles didn't share their concerns. From what he had seen of Faith's injuries, Buffy, or whoever else it could be, didn't hold back in the least. Not only that, they were using firearms. That was something expressly forbidden by the Council. An armed slayer would be entirely too liable to screw up. At least, that was the common consensus among watchers. Slayers were already too willfully violent in the first place; give them something as simply destructive as a weapon and who knows what could happen. Not that there was much Giles could do about it even if he knew for sure it was Buffy. The entire situation was entirely too vague.

"Giles? Giles? G-Maaaaaaaan?"

Xander's annoying prattling in the watcher's ear pulled him out of his thoughts. In the distance, he could see the top of the hospital. "Yes? What is it?" he asked, trying not to be too snippy.

"Willow just asked you how you knew Faith was in the hospital in the first place," Xander repeated.

"Oh, that," Giles didn't particularly like to admit just how he had gotten a late-night call from heavens knows who. "A contact at the hospital called me." Wasn't untrue in the strictest sense. Fortunately, no one read too much into his tone.

The rest of the short trip devolved into uncomfortable silence, only broken once by Oz laying on the van's horn when a black sedan cut him off coming out of the hospital parking lot. That little bit of excitement didn't overcome the macabre mood, though.

As was always the case in this town, the hospital lobby was full. Random injuries, crazies, and lawyers were lined up on either side and they all eyed the odd group that walked up to the front counter. The nurse on duty, a large, angry-looking woman, looked down over her glasses at the watcher when he rang the little bell.

"Visitors for Faith Lehane."

With a sigh, the nurse typed in the name and then looked back up. "Rupert Giles? That you?" When he nodded, she continued, "Sign here, here, here aaaaand here."

When Giles was done, he waved over the rest of the group. "We can visit her now. She's on the second floor in intensive care, though they are about to move her."

"What was that all about?" Xander asked.

Giles took off his glasses to clean them as he waited for the elevator to return to the first floor. "The Council has decided to place her under my care in addition to Buffy."

"Buffy's AWOL," Xander grumbled.

"We don't know that. She's hasn't officially broken ties with myself or the Council," Giles reminded. He poignantly ignored the snort from the young man.

On the second floor, things were a bit more organized. The rooms were quiet, the nurses organized, and no patients walking about. In a town like Sunnydale, Giles supposed that there had to be some semblance of order for the patients even if the rest of the hospital was chaotic. Faith's room was at the end of the far hallway and the group lost no time in getting there.

As they walked, Willow brought up an interesting point. "Giles, what is Faith like? Do you know?"

"No, I do not. I only waited for her name before we decided to come down here. I do know that she was identified as a potential slayer late in life. Other than that, I have no idea as to her personality. I'm sure, though, she's very pleasant."

"Yeah, because the current slayer is a real bag of joy."

Giles couldn't even find the energy to reprimand Xander any longer. He was actually hoping that Faith would turn out more like Kendra, himself. Perhaps she could even speak with Buffy and get her to open up? His actual slayer had warmed up to the Scottish teen fast enough. The more Giles thought about it, the more pleased he was with this plan of action. He would see how Faith is doing, find out what vampire put her here in the hospital, and then inform Buffy that a new slayer had arrived. Then they could all sit down and...and...dear god.

As Giles pushed open Faith's hospital door, the group ground to a halt behind him as he was too stunned to move. There, looming over Faith, was none other than Buffy Summers. She was holding an obviously irate sister-slayer to the bed and there was a faint spot of blood seeping through the brunette's hospital gown. Finally snapping out of it due to someone pushing on his back, he rushed in followed by Xander, Oz, Cordelia, and and Willow, bursting into the room just as Buffy was pulling her arm back for a punch...

Buffy had just arrived at the hospital a few minutes prior. After clearing things up with the police, and getting a decent night's sleep for once, she had came to check up on Sunnydale's newest arrival.

It was strange seeing the girl like this. Buffy had seen dead bodies before, even people she had killed, but this was different. Before, it had been impersonal. Just a quick pull of a trigger. This time, though, she had stalked, ran down, and beaten someone nearly to death.

"And gotten almost as good as I got," she murmured. A nurse had pulled her aside the second she had seen the large welt developing under her eye. Now Buffy had a slayer-sized bandage taking up the majority of her cheek.

The blond pulled Faith's chart and flipped through it, even though she really didn't know what she was looking at. Fractures, gunshot, concussion; those things Buffy understood.

Really, Buffy didn't know why she was even here. It was a simple mistake and the other girl was sure to understand. In fact, she could probably just leave a note or something. "Sorry for beating you up. Promise that I won't do it again. Signed, Buffy." Yup. That would be all she had to do.

Too bad that Buffy's conscience wasn't letting leave. She had repeated the same arguments over and over again on her way over to the hospital, on the way up on the elevator, and stated once more before opening the door to Faith's room. When she had actually seen the girl, laying in bed with tubes coming out of her, all those thoughts had gone right out the door.

It was silly. Why had Buffy thought that just because she had ran out on her mom, Giles, everyone else, and gotten her hands dirty that she would suddenly become an emotionless killing machine? Not that she wanted to become a killing machine.

"Stupid morality," she grumbled. Thus, Buffy was playing bedside maid to Faith until she woke up. Not like Faith would be happy that the person who had beat her senseless and tried to slay her would be the first thing she saw upon waking up.

"You know, it's really all your fault. If you hadn't acted all demon-y I wouldn't have had to beat you up. I bet you're a selfish type of person. Probably used to people waiting on you hand and foot." Faith certainly looked like the type. Beautiful, had on real leather, and had just a presence that screamed "I'm the boss."

Buffy leaned over the bed to get a better look at the machines on the other side. Faith's pulse was steady, apparently, and Buffy couldn't imagine any reason she wouldn't be up. "I bet you're just sleeping or something. Probably enjoying me squirming like this."

"Good guess, Blondie."

It was only after she was slugged in the face that Buffy realized she had walked right into that one. "Probably deserved that," the blond slayer grunted. She caught the next punch, though. "Though, I've never been the type to take my due lumps." Faith struggled to get her working hand out of Buffy's grip, but couldn't due to the leverage the other slayer had on her.

"You're like a snake or something. Hold still!" Even though the other girl had been shot and had half her bones broke or busted, it was hard for Buffy to keep her still. "That's blood, you know," she stated when Faith tried to move her other arm. Now the machines were starting to beep and beeping in a hospital was never, ever good. Deciding to take the initiative, Buffy bent back Faith's arm and pressed her other to her bleeding to keep it still. Maybe she could just bludgeon Faith into settling down...

It was then that the door burst open. "Buffy! Don't-don't kill her!"

Oh no. Just when things couldn't get any worse. That, and the pose she had been caught in hadn't been the best. "I'm trying to keep her from-" Another hit deflected. Where had Faith gotten that drinking glass from? "-killing me, Will!"

"Stop doing a good job at it!" Great. At least Faith was lucid enough to be snippy.

"Yeah, well, not like she wouldn't have a reason for that," Xander spat. He was far enough away to effectively make a break out the door should Buffy go psycho on him. "Not like she got shot or something."

"Enough!" Giles' bellow was forceful enough to silence the whole lot even if his countenance wasn't quite so inspiring. "Buffy, what are you- no, no. You should leave."

Buffy couldn't believe it. She had come here to check in on the person who had tried to kill her and she was the bad guy? It took an iron will to not fly off the handle right then and there. "I'm not going anywhere," the senior slayer finally declared. She sat down in one of the chairs by the bed, but out of Faith's reach, and gave the impression that she honestly meant it.

Seeing that this was going to be one of the difficult days, Giles pulled a chair somewhat between Faith and Buffy to play mediator. Not that he wanted to be between two angry slayers.

"Now that no one is attempting to kill someone else, why don't we run through what exactly happened last night? In nice-"

"This bitch tried to kill me!"

"You were acting like a vampire!"

"...quiet voices." Giles took a deep breath drummed his fingers on the armrest of his chair while Buffy and Faith bickered back and forth. At least the rest of the group was smart enough to keep their own quips to themselves. As far as Giles had heard so far, in between the shouts, was that there had been a fight and a mutual misunderstanding involving vampires. It would be comedic if it didn't involve the two beating each other to a pulp.

Finally, Giles had heard enough. "Well, it seems that you both had an interesting night." He had stood up and blocked the girl's view of each other which ground the discussion to a halt for a moment. "Buffy, this is...this is inexcusable. You nearly killed Faith."

Buffy glared through her eyelashes at her watcher. Since when didn't people take her side? "I'm here, aren't I? I even had my driver call you last night! I didn't just toss her into a gutter or something."

"People better stop talking like I'm not laying right here," Faith snarled. "Somebody better give me some damn answers or we're gonna have some problems."

"Ah, hi!" Willow, eager to avoid any more of the yelling, tittered over to the other side of the bed. She held out her hand and Faith reluctantly shook it. "We're the support team!" Willow looked over at Buffy and Giles and her smile slipped."Or, we were the support team."

Faith nodded like she really didn't understand. "Yeah, whatever. I totally want to talk about this when I'm laying in a fucking hospital bed with a few dozen holes in my arm."

The not-so-sudden outburst made the entire room very aware of just how pissed Faith was getting. Giles cringed at his rudeness and promptly turned around.

"Oh, yes. I'm dreadfully sorry about that, Faith." Giles straighted up and cleared his throat in a manner her assumed made him look more dignified. "I am Rupert Giles. Your temporary watcher."

"Whoa, watcher? You're her watcher?!" Buffy was on her feet now. "When did this happen?"

Giles pulled off his glasses and once again gave them a good cleaning. "Since this morning. Faith's original watcher has since..." he trailed off.

"Just say it. She died."

No matter how it was said, Giles was still uncomfortable. "Yes, well, that. In any event, I'm technically your defacto guardian at the moment as well. How is your condition?"

From this point, Buffy started to drift out of the conversation. No one was even paying her any attention anymore, anyway. Of course, why should they? Hello!Shiny new slayer! Maybe they could use and abuse this one, too.

"Well, you all seem to have everything under control here. I'll just go and wash this blood off my hand here...yeah, no one is even listening." Buffy simply got up and walked into the little bathroom that was adjacent to the main room.

The blood on her hand was still pretty fresh and Buffy caught it in her other before it could drip. She didn't want to get it on the floor; at least, that's what she told herself. When she turned on the faucet, though, Buffy hesitated.

It was just...pooling there in her palm. The blond moved her hand and watched the red liquid languidly swill around. She started to hold it up closer but it moved and a large drop rolled off her palm. At the last second, Buffy's tongue whipped out and caught the red drop on the tip.

The taste was so different than anything Buffy had ever experienced. Now, when the adrenalin wasn't running and there was nothing else to dull her senses, it was one hundred fold. And that was only a drop! There was still so much left on her hand. She could just...take another...

"Buffy, are you alright?"

Buffy jumped and her hand quickly went under the spray. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just washing my hands, Giles. Don't people ever knock anymore?!"

"I did. Several times." Now Giles had on his concerned face and that wouldn't go over well if he noticed something.

"Guess I just spaced out. Can I go now?" Buffy hurriedly asked. She wanted to be gone before Giles could smell the blood on her breath...or something. "You've got a new slayer to deal with, I have some more errands to run..." She made a little hurry up motion with her hands.

Giles blinked and quickly moved out of the way. "Yes, of course. Perhaps it would be best if you, um, perhaps Faith would-"

"Yeah, sure." She brushed past the British man and made for the door, but stopped when Giles tugged on her shirt.

"Thank you, Buffy. I...apologize. What you did was incredibly misguided, but you didn't have to take care of Faith and yet you did."

Great. Now she was getting thanks for not being a murderer. "Like I said; sure."

It was then that Buffy noticed the nurse standing by Faith. She also noticed that she was taking...blood...with a giant needle. An entire vial of it. "What...what's the nurse doing...?" she asked, enraptured by the sight.

Distractedly, Giles looked over at the bed. "What? Oh! Taking some blood. They need a few more samples for the lab. Why do you...Buffy? Buffy, where did you go?"

"This is so very wrong."

Wrong or not, Buffy was still slinking down the hallway in search of something. Slipping past a half-aware nurse at her station, the blond managed to get into the blood bank without much trouble.

It was wrong, it was disgusting, it went against just about anything and everything being the slayer could possibly stand for. And yet...

Blood, pack by pack, filled the cold storage to the very brim. Buffy's fingers were buzzing each time her skin made contact with the plastic sacks, but she was looking for only one in particular. Finally, the Slayer pulled forth her prize; several freshly-drawn packs of blood from one Faith Lehane. If touching the other packs made her skin tingle, then Buffy was on fire at the moment.

The thick liquid inside the plastic rolled under the teen's thumb as the Slayer fought with herself. This was sick; she was a human, a vampire hunter. How could she want to...to...drink...this blood so much? Even now, Buffy could remember how intoxicating it had been both times she had given in. Right now, the most pressing thing was simply to get another taste.

"I need help...so much help...and a mug. Or maybe a straw...no! Bad Buffy!" Even though the girl was babbling to herself, her situation wasn't improving. Calmly, meticulously, Buffy sat the blood pack down on a nearby counter and took a few steps back. This did little for her temperament, though, as she still had an urge to go and drink the thing dry.

There was only one thing to do in a situation like this; call for help. Taking a calming breath, Buffy abruptly turned away from the blood pack and pulled out her cellphone. She quickly dialed the numbers of the one person who could have the answers. "B-boss? Are you there?" Buffy timidly called out when she heard a click come from her phone.

A light crackling came through, probably from interference from withing the hospital itself, before the Slayer received a reply. "Buffy? Is that you?" Mayor Wilkins sounded fairly groggy and Buffy only just realized that she had probably woken him up. "Good golly, it's seven am! It's a Saturday!"

"Boss, I'm at the hospital and I need some help." There was an immediate flurry from the other end of the line and Buffy rushed to explain. "I'm not hurt or anything! I'm just...you know...visiting someone. A friend."

Wilkins sighed and slumped back down into his chair. "Well, that was a scare," he said, rolling his neck to get out some of the tension. "What do you need help now for that couldn't wait until, say, noon? Sometimes sleeping in is a good thing! I know that kids these days don't think that sleep is important, but I assure you that a balanced breakfast an a good night's sleep can do wonde-"

"I broke into the blood bank and I think I'm going to go insane if I don't drink this packet of blood I stole!" Buffy interrupted in one long statement. That she actually interrupted the Mayor, even when he was on one of his values rants, was a clear sign of how freaked the she was at the moment. Buffy was slowly getting closer and closer to the counter where she had left the blood and was now crouched down, eye-level with the packet as it sat there, calling out to her. "I really, really, really, really need some advice here, Boss."

What the hell could be said to something like that? For sure, Mayor Wilkins was stunned. "Did you say...blood?" he parroted. He had been alive for over a hundred years and nothing like this had ever came up. Best to start with the basic things. "Ah...did you get...bitten...and not notice?"

The silence from Buffy let the Mayor know exactly what she thought of that suggestion.

Holding the phone between his face and shoulder, the ancient bureaucrat walked over to this "special" bookshelf that he kept at his home. It was full of old tomes and the like, but it would take a little time to sift through them all. "Alright, that was a silly question. Just hold tight until I can get up the ingredients to a scanning spell."

Buffy heard what the Mayor had said as well as the speed at which he was getting things together. However, she was already picking up the pack of blood again. This time, she just couldn't resist poking a small hole in it and letting the red liquid drip onto her hand. Slowly, she brought her finger up to her mouth and took a lick.

If it was possible to bottle the feeling of a good orgasm, a good feast, and a good slay into one thing, this was it. Soon the blond was sucking a steady stream of blood from the pack, savoring the feel of the ticker-than-water liquid washing down her throat.

Was this what a vampire felt every time they ate? If so, Buffy could hardly fault them for craving blood 24/7. She hadn't felt this kind of rush since fighting the Master after popping back from the dead.

"Alright, I've got the ingredients. Just sit tight for a bit and I'll see what's going on."

The Mayor's voice blaring out of her cellphone jolted Buffy back from the euphoric edge. "Wha? Oh, right. Whatever." The Slayer was still pretty out of it as she continued to nurse her nearly-empty blood pack.

Ignoring the stoner-like response he had gotten, Wilkins began his ritual spell. A few mumbled lines later and he had a clear picture of what was going on inside Buffy's body. "Well, it's not a curse," he stated with certainty.

"Mmm-hmm." Buffy was trying to get her buzz back and was only half-listening. She had run out of blood, though. Walking back over to the cabinet, she pulled out a random pack and tore it open with her teeth. That rash action proved to be a bad one as the moment the new blood hit Buffy's lips, she was gagging and spitting it up.

"Ugh! This stuff is horrible!" she shouted, wiping her mouth with whatever piece of cloth she could find. The Slayer checked the date as that seemed to be a logical thing to do, not that she had any experience with blood. "Fresh? Same date as Faith's..."

It hadn't tasted anything like the other slayer's blood, though. Whereas Faith's blood was thick and went down smooth as silk, this new batch was out and out disgusting. The rotten taste was still there even after washing out her mouth with a mouthful of water from a nearby sink. It was only after Buffy had squeezed the last bit of blood from Faith's pack that the nauseous feeling left her.

Of course, none of this went unnoticed by the Mayor. "Buffy? Are you sick? I'm checking your physical condition now." Again, though, nothing turned up strange. There was literally nothing wrong with the girl. Well, nothing magically or physically wrong. "Do you still have the cravings?"

"Uh, not anymore," Buffy admitted. As much as she tried to hide it, a small burp undercut just what had happened.

The Mayor didn't even need to continue the scanning spell to know what was going on. "You drank it, didn't you? Honestly, I thought you had more willpower than that, young lady!" He didn't sound too pleased, but he also didn't sound very worried.

Now that she was a bit more in control, and full, the gravity of what she had done hit Buffy. "Oh god, I just drank an entire blood bag...ewww!" The poor teen was furiously scraping away at her tongue with a towel in a vain attempt to somehow reverse course. "Tell me this wasn't my fault, Boss! There had to have been something!"

"I don't know what to tell you, Buffy," the Mayor admitted, "There is nothing magically wrong with you. No curses, no spells, no blood-craving parasites swimming around in your stomach. Those are particularity nasty, too. You're lucky!"

Lucky? Is that what the Mayor called this situation? "I just drank two hundred and fifty milliliters of blood and you call me lucky?! Just what the hell do you think is a good day? When the town doesn't spontaneously explode?"

Actually... "No need to get snippy about it! I said that there was nothing physically or magically wrong with you. It doesn't mean that you don't have a problem," he placated. "This could be outside of my understanding, Buffy. Do slayers have a history of this kind of behavior? First, we need to rule things out. Now, you're sure that you didn't get bitten by a vampire, so it's not that."

That wasn't a bad question. Buffy slumped back in her lab chair and tried to remember Giles ever mentioning something like this. Suddenly, an answer hit her, albeit one that Buffy didn't want to consider, and she shakily brought her cellphone back up to her ear. "A-Actually, I might have an idea. A few months ago, there was this kid in a coma. He was...I dunno, super psychic or something. Anyway, while he was out, everyone's worst nightmares started coming true. Willow had to sing, Giles thought I died, Xander was chased by clowns and I...became a vampire."

This particular memory was perhaps the most jarring thing to Buffy until now. It even beat out having to kill those people on the boat to save Finch and she was loath to speak of it. "I still remember it," Buffy whispered, "I was really a vampire. It was only for a few hours, but...but...I was dead. I remember how I felt, too. I was...hungry. I felt the same way tonight."

"...alright, that qualifies as a clue," the Mayor decided after a long period of silence. "Did anything happen that could have reminded you of the time you spent as a vampire? Maybe something you saw?"

"Maybe something I ate? Could the blood might have done it? I, um, had a bit last night. By accident."


The Mayor's tone was what one would call skeptical. Not that Buffy could blame him, oh no. If, say, a vampire with blood all over said, "This nubile virgin just fell onto my fangs!" the slayer would probably have popped off its head after beating it to a pulp. More so than usual.

"It really wasn't on purpose," was Buffy's oh-so-innocent response. "It just sort of...happened! You know?" Of course the Mayor wouldn't know. He wasn't a whacked-out slayer on a blood high.

"Perhaps it would be best if you got away from the blood, Buffy, until I can get you back down to the office and really do a proper scan."

But Buffy wasn't in the mood to just sit around. "No, I-I gotta go do something. I just feel...restless." Before Wilkins could reply, the slayer hung up.

The question now facing Buffy was where she should go. She felt good. Damn good. It was like being pulled back to life after the Master had killed her. Some kind of primeval mojo was boiling in her veins, just itching to get out and wreck some demon's day. As she snuck out of the blood bank, Buffy intended to do just that after a quick stop at Willies to scare him for some information. That was her plan last night, but things turned ugly before she got the chance. She was sure the annoying bar owner would be down there today, surveying the damage...

"I want that slayer now, Tick!"

Kakistos was not a happy demon. Not only was he surrounded by idiots, he also had to put up with the lippy vampires he had picked up in Sunnydale. Apparently they were used to getting treated like something other than the lowest creatures in existence. Well, after killing a few, the rest wised up, but it was still annoying.

Currently, his base of operations consisted of nothing but an old factory warehouse. Not quite the sequestered Greek villa he had grown up in nor was it the lavish abandoned subway tunnel he had in Boston, but it would do for now. Tick had taken a day to set up his computer network and Kakistos expected results for his patience.

The technologically-inclined demon whom was being yelled at poked his head out from behind his laptop screen. If this job didn't pay so well... "I'm working on it. Finding a slayer in this city isn't as easy as you think. I have to check bank records, transactions, and transit receipts. Faith could be anywhere." Not to mention Tick was getting some disturbing information from the vampires that had joined on. They said the slayer was named Buffy, not Faith, and that she worked for the mayor of Sunnydale. He had brought this up to Kakistos and the elder demon had told him to keep an eye on it. However, everyone know that there was only one slayer at a time. It could just be a particularly powerful potential or something. Either way, he wanted a chance to eventually take this "Buffy" on.

As Tick was sifting through information, something caught his attention. He had routed the factory district's cameras onto his laptop to keep an eye out and now he was glad he did. There was a delectable little morsel wandering around. Probably around sixteen, blond, and ripe-looking. "Boss, are you hungry?" Tick called out. He turned his laptop around so the one-eyed elder could get a look. "Did I tell you how much I love this town? Dinner is delivery."

"I am a bit peckish," Kakistos admitted. He motioned for some of the vampires lounging around to go and fetch the girl. Today there was a heavy overcast so the sun wouldn't be a problem. While they were gone, he started pacing. "Do you have anything yet, Tick?"

"A few things. Faith rode into town day before yesterday on a bus. I've...almost...got...it. Got an address. She's staying at a motel on the other side of town." Sometimes Tick even impressed himself. "We can go after lunch."

Finally! Kakistos actually smiled, letting his fangs pop out over his lip in anticipation. He would have a small bite now before the main course. "Good work, Mr. Tick. Faith is going to experience every moment I've been in pain because of this eye. Every moment. I will rip her spine from her body and wear it as a belt before I drain her body of every fluid."

"Faith has a habit of pissing people off, huh?"

"You have no idea," Kakistos snarled, working himself up even more. "She is the most annoyingly persistent slayer I have ever crossed paths with. Like a fungus."

"Oh, I completely agree. One second she's helpless and the next she's trying to beat you senseless for taking time out of your life to see how she's doing. Can you believe that?"

That was the Bostonian to a tee. Well, without the seeing how she was doing bit. "I didn't think any of you knew Faith? I don't like being lied to."

"Well, I don't know you that well. This is our first date, after all."

Confused, Kakistos turned around. Instead of seeing a female vampire, like he expected, he only saw a first flying towards his face. It hit him like a brick wall and sent him spinning in the air, landing on Tick's computer desk and destroying everything there. When his head stopped spinning, the demon looked up to see the little blond girl he had sent after. "You! I'll have your skull for a cup for that."

Buffy, nonplussed by the threat, twirled her stake like a baton. She hadn't brought her shotgun with her as it was back at her apartment and she was almost missing it. Kakistos was a bit bigger than she had thought and he had a lot more hired help. Still, the slayer had taken out a few outside and none inside looked like they wanted to interrupt. Not that she'd let any of them go. They betrayed the Boss so they were dust.

The fight began in earnest when Kakistos threw what remained of Tick's table at the slayer. Buffy, to her own surprise, swatted it away like it was nothing. She chalked it up to adrenalin and the lingering buzz she still had. Rushing in, the slayer lashed out with a backhand that easily got inside the demon's defenses, giving him yet another hard hit to the face. Buffy didn't know why Faith was afraid of this guy. So far, she wasn't having any trouble with him. "Come on, fight back or something!" she snapped, weaving around a slow punch and giving Kakistos a few dozen raps to the stomach for his trouble. It was as if Buffy were dancing around a stationary punching bag. She was on the tips of her toes, hands in a boxing position. In a word, the slayer was absolutely wired.

Sensing this, Kakistos backed off and grabbed a large block of wood to wield as a pole. If he could keep the slayer at a distance, perhaps he could fight her up against a wall and give her nowhere to dodge to. He lashed out with his makeshift weapon only to balk as it was broke in half by a well-timed kick from his opponent. Hell, even the girl seemed surprised.

Something was different, Buffy could feel it. She was faster, stronger, more aware than ever before. Her body was reacting in ways it had never done before in a fight, not even when she was really worked up. Kakistos, however, didn't seem to be taking the hint. He took Buffy's lack of attention as an opening and rushed in, putting everything he had into an offensive blitz of power.

Buffy flipped over the vampire's head, landing at his back. Marveling at the maneuver, Buffy realized that she hadn't ever done anything like it. "Why not?" she asked herself, easily ducking under a swipe by Kakistos. Buffy had jumped like that before, she cleared the school's twelve-foot gate regularly, but never in a fight. The answer soon came to her; Buffy used to feel uneasy in the air. Even the slight leaps over attacks would make her more wary.

Not now, though.

Kakistos' head snapped to the side as Buffy bounded off of the wall to roundhouse him. Before he could gather his wits, his head was assaulted again but from the other side. The slayer had managed to already gain a foothold somewhere else and launch herself at him, talking to herself all the while. She wasn't even paying attention to the fight!

If that was the way the slayer wanted to attack, then so be it. The ancient and experienced vampire let the next hit land, but grabbed the girl's leg in his vice-like grip. He swung her up and then swung down as if he were wielding an ax about to take off someone's head. In this case, he was just looking to snap the puny blond in half. Instead of that satisfying crunch, though, all he got was a grunt.

A grunt as Buffy stopped herself from landing face-first by putting out her arms.

It was impossible! Her limbs should have snapped like twigs from the force of his attack! Kakistos was forced to let go as Buffy's free leg whipped out and stomped his fangs in. His mouth was pouring blood from having a boot heel forced-fed to him. "Tick! Get over here, Tick!" he cried, but no one answered. In fact, none of his minions were left to help him. As Buffy took a step forward, he involuntarily took one back.

"Big bad Taco isn't so tough now, is he?" Buffy scoffed. She walked the vamp all the way to the other side of the room, much to the growing hysteria of the ancient demon. "You can't get away from me. I'm between you and the sewer entrance. Whatcha gonna do, tough guy? Afraid of little me? I thought you wanted to kill the slayer."

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Kakistos tried to buy time. "It wasn't you I wanted to kill! It was the other one!"

Buffy stopped. "You mean...Faith? You came here after Faith?" Now things were making sense. "Why? What did she do to you?" This was a chance to learn more about Faith without out and out asking.

"She killed my pet alligator."

Okay, that was not what Buffy had expected. "That's it? An alligator?" Why the hell would a vampire even have an alligator?

"And the eye! She did this to my eye! I killed her watcher for that and now I'll kill her."

Buffy blinked. "You do realize that I'm right here? I'm not going to let you just kill her."

Kakistos snorted. "And why not? I know who you are, Buffy Summers. You work for the power in this town, not the Watchers Council. Why don't you ask your boss if he would want another slayer running around. It would be better if you let me deal with her and move on." When Buffy paused, the demon gained back some of his bravado. It was a good thing Tick had dug all this information up earlier. "I swear to you that I will not recruit any more vampires from this town. That's why you were sent to kill me, right?"

As much as Buffy hated to admit it, the demon had a point. Her orders were to just deal with the problem of the vamps working for someone else; nothing more. Faith, too, would probably be a problem later on. Buffy doubted, after last night, that the brunette would listen to her and come to work for the Mayor. It also complicated her relationship with Giles and her friends. What if they just...replaced her? Faith could just step into her life. In fact, it would be best if Faith just moved along out of town...

"If you help me deal with Faith, I'll even join your master here," Kakistos continued. "If you just tell me where she is, I'll work for him. I want revenge; nothing else matters to me at the moment. Think of all the knowledge and experience I could bring to this little city! I have lived for centuries; I could bring every demon in North America to the bargaining table. Think what that could do for you and yours!"

And Buffy did think.

It was late in the afternoon when Giles and the others had finally left Faith to herself. The slayer hated so many people being in her room at one time. In fact, she was sure she'd just hate half of the people that had visited today even if they had came one at a time.

Okay, they weren't all bad. That Oz guy was kinda cool, being all quiet and stuff. Willow had been fine as well. That Xander guy, though, was all over the place. Not bad to look at, but annoying as shit. Giles...well, she didn't know what to think of the old librarian. He was cute, for an old guy, but he seemed to think she was going to stick around. After what happened to Faith's last watcher, the girl would have thought she would be on the first bus out of town, but Giles had began talking about places to live. He was even offering her a place to stay until she figured it out.

Not that Faith wanted to stay. She had came here to dump Kakistos on Buffy and then get out. Maybe find out a bit about the other slayer before she did. That hadn't gone over too well, obviously. She would win next time, though. No way in hell she was going to get laid up like this again, that was for damn sure. The little blond had just gotten lucky with the cops coming when they did, otherwise Faith would have never taken a shot like that. And next time she'd watch her back. Little girly coward, attacking her from behind. What kind of slayer did that?

"Faith, you home?"

Speak of the devil. "I was just thinking about you, blondie," Faith said as Buffy poked her head inside the door. "Thinking about all the ways I'm going to make you pay for this when I get out of here."

Buffy rolled her eyes and looked around. "Giles isn't here? Good." She stepped fully into the room, but left the door cracked. Probably in case Faith had managed to heal up enough to rush her. "So...how are you feeling?"

"How the fuck do you think I'm feeling? I've had nurses poking me for the last hour because they lost all the blood they poked out of me yesterday," she snarled. "And now I have to put up with you. What the fuck do you want?"

"Fine, I came down here to be nice, but if you want to be a bitch, then that just makes this easier," Buffy replied. Her annoyed face turned impish as she walked to the foot of the bed. She had a hand behind her back, hiding something from Faith's sight. "I have someone who wants to meet you, Faith. He's wanted to get you face to face for a long time."

The dark slayer was in no mood for this. "Cut the shit, Buffy. What do you want that can't wait for me to stomp your ass into a paste? We both know there's no one in this damn town that knows me."

"Oh? Kakistos seemed to know you quite well, Faith."

Faith's blood ran cold. "How do you know about Kakistos?" she asked, her voice having lost all its hostility. There was now just a dull, plane fear that was easy to hear.

Buffy shrugged. "I met him on patrol. Nice guy, weird hands, bad eye. Well, you know him better than me. Anyway, he really wanted to find you, so I brought him down here." The slayer ignored Faith's shocked visage, and slowly walked up the side of the bed. "He also said that if I kill you, he'd do me a favor. A big favor. I told him I'd think about it."

The blond was now right beside Faith's head and the brunette couldn't do a thing. She was stunned into inaction. Not only did Kakistos know where she was, he also had gotten the girl who nearly killed her on his side. With a snarl, she pulled it together. "Well? Fucking do it. Don't just stand there like a bitch; do it!"

"Gladly." Faith braced herself for whatever it was that the other slayer had planned. The hidden arm came from behind Buffy's back and...and...pulled out a little plastic bottle.

Buffy shook the bottle, rattling the ashes inside. "I gathered all the dust I could find since I didn't know if you wanted to keep a memento. There was a lot of dust. He was a big demon, you know?" Smiling at Faith's dumbstruck look, Buffy set the bottle down on the table beside Faith's bed. "If you don't want to keep it, you can just toss it."

"You...you killed him?" Faith couldn't believe it. She fumbled to roll over and grasp at the bottle. With a little difficulty, she unscrewed the top and let the ashes fall over her hand. "He's dead. He's dead!" She looked up at Buffy who was just staring back, uncertain of what would come next. "This doesn't mean that I owe you anything," Faith said, making sure to state that outright. She didn't owe people.

"It makes us even," Buffy countered. She was already walking to the door. Pausing at the frame, she turned back. "Faith, take care of them for me, okay?" She didn't wait on a response and instead slipped out into the hallway.

As she listened to Buffy's boots get fainter and fainter, Faith took several long, deep breaths before settling down into her pillow. She tossed the bottle into the trash and put her arms behind her head, smiling for the first time in a long time.

Maybe, just maybe, Sunnydale might not be too bad after all. Could be a nice place to stay awhile...